MONTREAL — Alexander Nylander had two goals and an assist to lift Sweden to a 3-1 victory over winless Finland on Thursday night at the world junior hockey championship.
Lias Andersson also scored for Sweden (3-0-0), which ends preliminary round play Saturday against the Czech Republic (1-0-2).
Aapeli Rasanen scored for the defending champion Finns (0-3-0), who need Switzerland to lose to Denmark (1-1-1) on Friday and then beat the Swiss on Saturday to reach the quarter-finals.
Sweden has won 39 consecutive group stage games since an overtime loss to the United States in 2007, but they lost to Finland in the semifinals at last year’s tournament and in the 2014 final.
Finland played desperate hockey and outshot Sweden 29-20, but inexperience and often disjointed play has dogged them from their opening-game loss to the Czechs. And Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom had an outstanding game.
It was an eventful outing for Rasmus Dahlin, the 16-year-old Swedish defenceman pegged as a possible first overall NHL draft pick in 2018. He barely played in the first period, but when he got on, he lost the puck to Otto Koivula and tripped the Finnish forward. Rasanen scored on the ensuing power play at 16:35 as he fired in Eeli Tolvanen’s feed from the slot.
Dahlin was sent to the box again for interference after a collision with Urho Vaakanainen 8:15 into the second frame and, six seconds later, Carl Grundstrom was called for shooting the puck over the glass.
But Sandstrom held off the two-man advantage and Andersson tied it at 12:16 on a low wrist shot from the high slot on a perfect pass from Nylander, the Buffalo Sabres’ first round pick and the brother of Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander.
Sweden went ahead 1:24 into the third on a five-pass sequence on a rush through the Finland defence, with Nylander finishing into an open side on a cross-ice feed from Joel Eriksson Ek.
He added an empty-net goal at the 19:00 mark.
The three points gave Nylander four goals and three assists in Sweden’s first three games.
Finland defeated Russia in the gold medal game last year in Helsinki, but have struggled in this tournament without their top line of Patrik Laine, Sebastian Aho and Jesse Puljujarvi, who are all still eligible but are now playing in the NHL. The Finns have the second-youngest team at the tournament behind Switzerland.