Friday, February 26, 2010

USA reaches gold medal game by thrashing Finland

by Jeff Kruczynski
Special to The Phanatic 
  
To the amazement of the masses, it was over quickly. A crippling six-goal barrage in the first 13 minutes of the game punched the Americans' ticket to the gold-medal game.

The final score read: 6-1.

Not many would have predicted such a lopsided affair between the United States and Finland, two of the stingiest clubs at these Olympics.

The Finns had yielded just four goals heading into the semifinals, one fewer than Team USA, which advanced to play the winner of Canada-Slovakia on Sunday for a chance to claim gold in men's ice hockey for the first time since the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" team.

Finland and the loser from Friday's other semifinal will battle for bronze a day earlier.

The nightmare for the Finns began with a misplay by goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff, who opted to leave the crease to play a puck but misfired on a pass to defenseman Sami Lepisto. Instead, the puck wound up on the stick of American forward Ryan Malone and he had no trouble hitting the open net at the 2:04 mark.

It completely unraveled for the defending silver medalists as Team USA scored five times in a span of 6:24.

Dustin Brown drew consecutive penalties against the Finns, and the U.S. converted on each power play.
Zach Parise took a Paul Stastny feed and lifted a shot over a sliding Kiprusoff at 6:22. Erik Johnson's bid from the right circle found the back of the net at 8:36.

Kiprusoff was chased to the bench after he was beaten by Patrick Kane on the backhand at 10:08. The Finnish goaltender made just three saves in his abbreviated start.

In came Niklas Backstrom, who surrendered goals to Kane and Stastny separated by 15 seconds, the latter coming at 12:46.

Miller stopped 18 shots before exiting midway through the third period with the outcome all but decided. Tim Thomas, making his first appearance in this tournament for the Americans, yielded a power-play goal to Antti Miettinen with 5:14 remaining.
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