Saturday, February 22, 2014

Finns blank USA for bronze; American collapse complete

Sochi,  Russia -- Teemu Selanne and Jussi Jokinen tallied in an 11-second span early in the second period and Tuukka Rask stopped 27 shots, as Finland claimed yet another bronze medal thanks to a 5-0 decision
over the United States on Saturday.

Selanne scored twice -- presumably ending his Olympic career with 24 total markers -- for the Finns, who claimed bronze for the fourth time since 1994. Jussi Jokinen, Olli Maatta and Juuso Hietanen added a goal each, with Lauri Korpikoski and Mikael Granlund adding two assists apiece.

The 43-year-old "Finnish Flash" is getting his well-deserved due after completing his sixth Olympiad, as Anaheim Ducks teammate and USA defenseman Cam Fowler stated after the crushing loss: "If there's one guy on the planet I feel happy for after losing a game, it's him."

"You're not going to see that," Selanne said when asked if he could hold out four more years for South Korea. "Obviously it was a huge disappointment, losing last night (to Sweden), but we bounced back today. It was 27 years ago that I played my first international contest for Finland. I'm proud that I got to play all those years for my country."

Rask's shutout, his first of the tournament, was aided by stopping a pair of Patrick Kane penalty shots.

Jonathan Quick was left in for all five goals on 29 shots for the Americans, who saw the promise of another shot at a gold medal dissipate thanks to back-to-back scoreless outings.

It was a similar finish as the surprising 1992 Team USA squad, which shocked the world by reaching the semifinals, only to finish fourth after consecutive losses to the Unified Team and Czechoslovakia.

"We lost 1-0 in the semifinal to Canada, and it erased the 20 goals before," said USA head coach Dan Byslma of the sudden power outage.

Selanne put his country ahead with a backhander from the left side at 1:27 of the second period, then Jokinen flipped home a rebound from the high slot only 11 seconds later to provide Finland a commanding 2-0 edge.

That seemed to break the American team's spirit.

The United States has yet to medal away from North America since taking a surprise Silver in 1972 at Sapporo.

“They played like they had something to win, and we just shut it down,” said US captain Zach Parise.

The last gasp for Team USA came less than five minutes after Jokinen's marker.

Kane's stick was shattered by a Leo Komarov slash on a breakaway, and provided yet another chance in alone on Rask with 6:24 played. The dynamic Chicago forward came up empty once more, clanging that chance high off the right post.

It was 3-0 for the Finns at the end of a Kane tripping minor, when Hietanen beat Quick on a shot through a screen with 6:10 elapsed in the third period. That score capped a clinic by the Finns in puck possession, showing how tight a unit these international veterans were compared to their NHL counterparts.

Selanne struck once more, on a subsequent Finnish advantage, to make it a four-goal margin just after the nine-minute mark. He stood in the slot and one-timed a Granlund feed inside the left post.

Maatta added a power-play marker with 6:51 to play that accounted for the final margin.

The best chance to snap the deadlock in a scoreless opening period came when the USA was awarded a penalty shot with 6:20 remaining. Veteran Finnish defenseman Kimmo Timonen flipped a broken stick towards Ryan Kesler during a scoring chance.

Rask had the right post sealed off, but Kane, who was tabbed to take the uncontested chance, lost control of the puck and slid his opportunity wide.

There is one more hockey game on tap, Sunday's Gold-medal tilt between defending champion Canada and the upstart and undefeated Swedes.

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