HV 71 beat Linköping to claim its second regular season crown in three years.
By Chipp Reid
The Elitserien regular season came down to the final day of the season as HV 71 and Linköping battled for first place while Timrå and Luleå fought for the eighth and final playoff spot.
When the smoke cleared, HV 71 claimed its second regular-season title in three years while Timrå slipped into the final playoff. Linköping found itself in third place after losing to HV 71. Djurgården climbed into the No. 2 seed while Timrå beat Luleå to grab the No. 8 seed.
Timrå went into the last game of the season trailing Luleå in the standings by two points. Both teams needed a regulation win – the winner was in the playoffs while the loser was out. Timrå climbed into playoff contention by picking up a point in a 2-2 overtime tie with Djurgånden March 11 while Luleå lost a point against Rögle thanks to a 4-3 overtime defeat.
Timrå and Luleå met March 15 in the last game of the season and it quickly turned into a battle between goalies Mattias Modig of Luleå and Anders Lindbäck of Timrå. The game was scoreless after two periods although Luleå outshot Timrå 26-15. The lopsided shot count didn’t help Luleå as Anton Lander fired home the only goal at 6:29 in the third period. Linbäck made the goal stand up, stopping nine more shots in the final session.
At the top of the table, Linköping and HV 71 met in Linköping in a game to decide first place. LHC needed a regulation time victory to overcome a two-point deficit in the standings and claim its first-ever regular-season title. Linköping went into the match looking to bounce back from a March 11 loss to Brynäs while HV 71 wanted to improve on its 2-2 tie with Färjestad the same night.
HV 71 looked like the fresher team as it went up 2-0 in the first period with goals from Johan Davidsson and Per Ledin. Tony Mårtensson's power play goal in the second cut HV's lead in half and gave LHC a glimmer of hope going in to the third. Magnus Johansson tied the game 2-2 with just under six minutes left to play as Linköping stormed Stefan Liv in the HV goal.
Jönköping-based HV 71, however, had no intention of relinquishing its hold on the top spot and Andreas Falk put HV up again with less than four minutes to play. LHC wouldn't give up and with 1:34 left in regulation Mikael Håkonsson tied it at 3-3.
Overtime guaranteed HV 71 the regular season title, but that wasn’t enough. Björn Melin scored at 3:13 of overtime to sew up HV's second title in three years
Djurgården took advantage of Linkoping’s home loss to grab second place as it beat Frölunda 5-2. Djurgården took an early 2-0 first-period lead on goals from Marcus Nilsson and Mattias Tjärqvist before Frölunda cut the lead in half before the break with a goal from Janne Niskala.
Niskala picked up his second goal when he tied it at 2-2 just 1:27 in the second period. That was all FHC could as DIF scored three unanswered goals to race to the victory. Jacob Josefson and Michael Holmqvist scored in the second period while Andreas Enqqvist made 5-2 in the third.
Modo, which climbed into eighth place briefly following the Olympic break, finished the season in ninth place thanks to a Rögle 4-2 victory. Modo played without an injured Peter Forsberg. The victory, however, kept Modo in the Elitserien while Rögle heads to the Kvalserien to try win its way back to the top flight.
Brynäs defeat Skellefteå 5-4 in over time Saturday with Jonas Nordquist picking up the game-winner on the power play.
Södertälje won its last game of the regular season defeating Färjestad 3-1 in Karlstad. SSK and Riku Helenius had a 3-0 shutout going into the third before Marcus Johansson would get the spoiler with just 1:46 left in the match. Södertälje joins Rögle in the Kvalserien.
Luleå finished in 10th place.
The playoffs open March 18. Here are the matchups: