Finland tops Russia, ends host's medal dreams
SOCHI -- The anticipation for the 2014 Sochi Olympics began for the Russian hockey players years ago, probably the day this small city on the Black Sea was awarded the Olympics on July 4, 2007.
Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin has been an ambassador for the event and became the first Russian to carry the Olympic torch on its way here. The faces of Ovechkin and the Detroit Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk are everywhere in this part of the world.
This was not the way this tournament was supposed to play out for the Russian hockey team.
|Alexander Ovechkin #8 of Russia handles the puck in front of the net of Tuukka Rask #40 of Finland during the Men's Ice Hockey Quarterfinal Playoff on Day 12 of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 19, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)|
Using its trademark suffocating defense and an offensive duo consisting of the oldest player in the tournament and one of the team's youngest, Finland stunned Russia and the nearly 12,000 in attendance at Bolshoy Ice Dome with a 3-1 victory in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
The undermanned Finns are missing their top four centers, but they will play for a medal Friday against Sweden.
For the Russians, the inquisition about what happened here and how a team so talented could not score when it needed to most has just begun.
Ilya Kovalchuk put Russia in front with a power-play goal at 7:51 of the opening period. Datsyuk had the puck in the right circle and he found Kovalchuk for a blistering one-timer from the top of the circles for his third goal of the tournament.
Juhamatti Aaltonen got the Finns even 87 seconds later with a brilliant individual move. He turned Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Nikita Nikitin inside out near the goal line and then tucked a shot off Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov and in for his first of the Olympics at 9:18.
Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne gave the Finns the lead at 17:38 of the first. Los Angeles Kings defenseman Slava Voynov failed to stop the puck along the right wall and Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund blew past him to retrieve it and set up a 2-on-1. Granlund fed the ageless Selanne, who muffed the shot but it still slid between Varlamov's legs.
It was the 43-year-old Selanne's second of the tournament, and set a new record for oldest goal scorer in the Olympics, a mark he had set five days earlier with a goal against Norway.
Granlund scored a power-play goal to make it 3-1 in the second period. Alexei Emelin was in the box for tripping Finland's Lauri Korpikoski when Granlund steered the rebound of a Selanne shot past Varlamov at 5:37.
Shortly after Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky came in to replace Varlamov. Bobrovsky blanked Finland the remainder of the way.
The Russian offense came to life in the second half of the second period and they generated several quality scoring chances. Rask didn't have a lot of tough work in the first period but he kept the lead at two goals in the final minutes of the second with big saves.