LILLEHAMMER, Norway -- Forward Peter Forsberg stayed out of the NHL this season so he could lead Sweden to a gold medal in the Winter Olympics.
And with a fake forehand, a fake backhand and a soft one-handed shot from in front of the crease, Forsberg scored on a shootout to give Sweden a 3-2 victory and the Olympic gold medal over Canada yesterday in what will be remembered as one of the most dramatic finals in Olympic history.
Forsberg, 20, scored after a 10-minute, sudden-death overtime and an initial shootout period that consisted of five shots for each team.
After Forsberg's goal, Canada had one more chance to tie the score, but Swedish goalie Tommy Salo stopped forward Paul Kariya's shot.
The Swedes touched off a wild celebration on the ice as they hugged and barreled each other over.
It was Sweden's first hockey gold medal in the Olympics after twice finishing with the silver, in 1928 and 1964. Canada has not won a gold medal in hockey since 1952.
"Actually, I wanted a few of the older guys to take that shot that Peter made, but they were scared," said Swedish coach Curt Lundmark. "Peter is young, and he wants to be in on the action."
Forsberg is action -- a fast and fanciful artist who can make plays at high speed. Wayne Gretzky has called him the greatest young player in the world.
His winning goal yesterday was strictly playground, a move that most hockey players try in practice but are afraid to attempt in a game.
Forsberg finished the play with a sweet, soft touch. The puck barely got under the left glove of goalie Corey Hirsch, who played a superb game.
"I followed back and went right to the post before he turned," said Hirsch. "He made what I thought was a questionable move " [stopping, which is illegal] when he hit the brakes. I'm not sure if it was a backhand or he just slid it by me, but I know it almost hit my glove."
Said Forsberg, who also had a goal in the first shootout period: "When I scored, I almost burst into tears. I don't usually score often from penalties. Hirsch stood a long way to the right as I approached the goal for my second and deciding penalty. We needed to make something happen, and I guess I did."
Forsberg has signed a four-year NHL contract with the Quebec Nordiques that will pay him $500,000 this season even if he doesn't play a game.
He will earn $2.8 million in 1994-95, $2.075 million in 1995-96 and $1.6 million in his option year of 1996-97.
"Now that this is over, I look forward to going to the NHL," said Forsberg.
Forsberg's goal touched off another debate about whether a shootout should be used as opposed to sudden death.
This was the fourth shootout since the format was adopted in 1988, the first in a championship.
It's not popular among the players.
"We have had a very good tournament, and the gold medal makes it just perfect," said Salo. "But the first goal that wins in sudden death should be the way we end the game, even if it means two or three extra periods."
Canada forward Peter Nedved said: "It's stupid to decide an Olympic final by a penalty shootout. Sudden death would have been a better way. You're taking the game from the team, and making it one-on-one."
Sweden actually played a better game with superior stickwork and puck movement. But Hirsch was excellent, allowing the Swedes only one power-play goal in the first two periods as he stopped 21 shots.
Sweden's Tomas Jonsson scored on a slap shot 6:10 into the game, but that goal came on a power play.
"Hirsch owned us in the first two periods," said Lundmark. "I thought we came out and controlled the game, but he kept coming up big."
Canada tied it 1-1 when Kariya scored off a rebound with 10:52 left in the game.
Defenseman Derek Mayer then scored on a 30-foot slap shot to put the Canadians up 2-1 with 8:17 left.
But Canadian defenseman Brad Werenka was called for a two-minute hooking penalty, and Sweden's Magnus Svensson scored with1:49 left to force overtime.
The first shootout consisted of five shots for each team. Nedved and Kariya scored on Canada's first and second shots, Svensson and Forsberg on Sweden's second and fourth chances.
When the score was still tied, the second shootout began, but this time the game would end on the round in which one team scored and the other failed.
Svensson and Nedved each missed to open the second shootout. Then Forsberg scored, leaving Canada's hopes up to Kariya.
Talk about tension.
"I thought I was going to throw up on the bench," said Canada forward Todd Hlushko. "It was like a roller coaster ride, up and down."
Kariya's attempt looked as if it would go in before Salo kicked it out of midair.
"Of course I was nervous, but I psyched myself up until I was almost angry. I just simply had to save that shot," Salo said. "Now, I'll treasure this forever."