*Photo’s courtesy of sochi2014.com
Finland’s Last Gift To Selanne
USA vs Finland, Bronze Medal Game. Bolshoy Arena, Sochi
Finland have won the Bronze Medal over Team USA 5-0 in Sochi, on a historic night for Finland, as an era comes to an end.
Captain Teemu Selanne scored two goals, Jussi Jokinen, Hietanen and Maata all scored for the Fins, as they continue to impress at the Olympic stage, bringing home a fifth medal in six Olympic games. Patrick Kane having not one but two penalty shot chances of his own and missing both were costly for USA.
Finland came into the game on the back of their heart breaking loss to rivals, Sweden, the night prior, had a little bit of extra rest time between their semi-final and the Bronze Medal game. This resulted in Finland coming out strong and heaping the pressure on team USA. A scramble in front of the USA net would provide Jussi Jokinen with a great opportunity, only to be stopped not by goaltender Jonathon Quick, but by Ryan Kesler who placed his body on the line to block it.
Teams would swap powerplay chances, both creating opportunities to score, nonetheless Quick and Tuuka Rask stood tall. USA started to dominate much of the 1st period with their speed and forechecking down low giving them the ability to pin Finland in their zone. Offensive pressure made way to a penalty call on Kimmo Timonen for hitting a broken stick head on the ice into Kessler’s path as he streaked down the ride side boards, drawing a penalty shot, much to the objection from Selanne with the referee.
Patrick Kane one of the most dynamic players in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks took the penalty shot. Coming down the middle, making Rask spread butterfly to take away the space, Kane narrowly missed the post. This would be the first warning sign that Team USA were struggling with lethargy after last night’s grueling game with Canada.
Pacioretty would have the next best opportunity to get his team on the board, beating defenseman Vatanen, he went in alone on a breakaway only to find Tuuka Rask equally up to the task. The first period came to a close at deadlock 0-0. USA out-shooting and out-hitting Finland as they dominated 75% of possession in the 1st period.
USA’s woes continued on the powerplay to start the 2nd, with Salminen still in the box for Tripping, USA continued to press the front of the net and place added pressure on Rask to no avail.
Life sparked into Finland’s bench and the attack mounted through Selanne and Mikael Granlund, the youngster showing signs of what he is capable of. Coming down the right side with some slick moves, he had Selanne coming in fast towards the back post and swiftly got him the pass, Selanne back-handed a perfect shot towards the net, beating Quick low to the blocker side. The “Finnish Flash” in fitting fashion kicked off the scoring.
It would take all but 11 secs for the second goal to be scored. Finland won the face-off, Lehtera and Kontiola combining passes to Jussi Jokinen who ripped a shot past Quick to make it 2-0 in dramatic fashion.
*Photo courtesy of bleacherreport.com
USA seemed to jolt awake from these two goals and once more at the 15 min mark, they started to shift momentum in their favour.
Patrick Kane having 2 shots in quick succession and multiple chances for USA on offense led to Komarov hooking Kane on a breakaway. This resulted in yet another Penalty Shot for Patrick Kane. This time he had Rask beat high and the puck rang off the bar. Kane could not believe his luck on this day, it just seemed to go from bad to worse for the Blackhawk’s star. USA kept piling on the pressure moving the puck around and getting some great opportunities and rebounds but nothing was falling the USA’s way.
With fatigue obviously showing on the faces on the US bench, Finland took control of the game and rattled Team USA at every turn. Early power-play to Finland in the 3rd period, Kane tripping Jokinen placed them in a wonderful position to increase the lead. They did just that, on the final second of the power-play, Hietanen ripped a shot from the point which blew past Quick who was screened in front to make it 3-0. Later the goal being added as a power-play marker.
USA unraveled and it went from bad to worse as T.J. Oshie, who was the hero for the US against Russia, took an interference penalty on Sami Salo and Finland went back on the power-play. The hero of the hour, Selanne notched his second of the game and with the goal added his 43rd point to go clear as the Olympics top point scorer. Also may I add at the ironic age of 43 no less. It was history being made in a game that was set up for Selanne to go out a winner and a legend.
The final nail in the coffin came from the youngster from the Pittsbugh Penguins, Maata, age 19 and full of confidence. His abilities in no doubt at all, as he showed them on the fifth goal. Another powerplay goal and his 3rd of the tournament. Assisted by Lehtera, who was having a brilliant game.
The final buzzer would sound and the Fins streamed down to embrace Tuuka Rask, who played brilliantly, to celebrate such a meaningful victory. This team without stars Mikko and Saku Koivu as well as Lightning star, Valteri Filppula through injury, overcame all odds to remain one of the powerhouses in international Ice Hockey still.
General Manager Jari Kurri and Teemu Selanne, held a long embrace at the bench as emotions boiled over. All Finnish players, respectfully shook the hands of all their managers and team officials behind the bench in a respectful line. The ceremony began and the team were all awarded their medals, at the conclusion of this, Teemu Selanne led his team around the ice in a victory lap. Noticeably, the team for awhile stayed a fair distance behind Selanne as a sign of respect to the man who has given his all to his country for 6 Olympic games. I cannot think of a professional sportsman more humble and inspiring to so many people, on and off the ice than Teemu Selanne. Well done Teemu and Finland you deserve all the success you have achieved.
*Photo courtesy of telegraph.co.uk