"I told him before the overtime, too," Zibanejad said with a grin. "So it was good to get that goal -- You have to decide if you want to win this. In the morning, it was a joke. But now, it's not a joke anymore."
With the victory, the Swedes claim their first gold at the world junior tournament since 1981, a hard-to-believe drought for a country that's won five men's world championships and two Olympic titles during that span.
They fired 57 shots at Russian goaltender Andrei Makarov before Zibanejad finally solved the Saskatoon Blades puck-stopper 10:09 into the overtime session, grabbing a loose puck in front of his team bench and finishing a nifty deke with a backhander on a partial breakaway.
The most surprising part of this game might've been the lack of offensive opportunities -- or even shots on goal -- generated at the other end by the Russians, the same squad that scored six times to spoil Canada's party in the semifinal two nights earlier.
When the Russians fired their first shot at Sweden's Johan Gustafsson, there was only 7:26 remaining before the first intermission. All told, they were outshot 17-3 in the first period.
If you think that's bad, wait till you hear what happened after the break.
At the midway mark of the middle frame, around the same time they scored their fourth goal against Canada in the semifinals, Valeri Bragin's high-flying squad had managed just four total shots on goal.
When the Russians were awarded their first powerplay with 3:27 remaining in the second stanza, the Swedes had a 37-4 edge on the shot-clock.
And when Boyce Rotevall was freed from the sin bin two minutes later? Sweden 39, Russia 4.
In the meantime, a guy nobody expected to see the ice -- backup goalie Makarov, who relieved Andrei Vasilevski after Canada's fifth goal in the semifinal -- was keeping his country in the game.
His long list of saves included several stops on Zibanejad, who fired a game-high seven shots on goal.
The Russians, who were outshot 58-17 as they tried for a second straight gold medal, finally generated some scoring opportunities in the final frame, perhaps responding to 'Let's go Sweden!' chants from the Saddledome crowd.
Russian captain Evgeni Kuznetsov, voted an all-star by the media, tournament MVP by the IIHF directorate and Public Enemy No. 1 by fans, rang one off the post on the powerplay.
Then with 33 ticks left on the clock, Kuznetsov threaded a spin-o-rama pass to speedster Nikita Gusev on the door-step, but Gustafsson stood his ground to send it to overtime.
It was Sweden's fourth extra-time game of the tournament -- including two against Russia -- and they won all four.
This one was, without a doubt, the most important.
"It's big for hockey in Sweden that we win," said forward Max Friberg. "It's been 31 years now. I hope everybody cheered for us in Sweden.
"I hope they party like hell."
The Russians settle for silver, while Team Canada claimed bronze with a 4-0 victory over Finland earlier in the day.
On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson