Two goals by Teemu Selanne led Finland to a 5-0 bronze medal win over the U.S. on Saturday. It was a classy, record-setting farewell for the "Finnish Flash."
Shining in his final Olympic game at the age of 43 years and 234 days, Selanne became the oldest Olympic goal-scorer ever.
"We believed that we can win the bronze," said Selanne. "I'm so proud of my guys. We were talking before the game: 'Let's play for ourselves. We deserve a great ending.' And we got that. Nobody really believed in us, but we did."
The Finnish captain is also the oldest hockey medal winner ever, surpassing Igor Larionov’s record from Russia’s 2002 bronze medal win in Salt Lake City 2002. Larionov was 41 years and 83 days old.
Finland captured its second straight Olympic bronze medal and its sixth medal in the last eight Olympics dating back to 1988. The Finns have won all four Winter Games bronze games in which they’ve participated.
"It's amazing," said goalie Tuukka Rask. "Nobody ever picks us to win anything and somehow we always find our way to win a medal. It's great. It would be nicer to get something brighter too someday, but not every guy gets these medals, and we're really happy for this."
Yes, bronze isn’t on par with gold, but it’s still worth something. The Finns definitely showed that awareness, outworking and outsmarting the Americans in their Sochi closer.
Jussi Jokinen had a goal and an assist, while Juuso Hietanen and Olli Maatta also scored. Mikael Granlund and Jori Lehtera added two assists apiece.
Rask made an impressive return for coach Erkka Westerlund, earning his first Olympic shutout. Due to the flu, he missed the 2-1 semi-final loss to Sweden, where Kari Lehtonen filled in. Finland outshot the Americans 29-26.
"We didn't play well," said American captain Zach Parise. "There's no way around it. The last two games, we didn't play well enough to win. We didn't deserve to win."
U.S. star Patrick Kane, who won the 2013 Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP in the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup run, took two penalty shots in the game – an Olympic hockey record – but failed to convert on either of them.
Kane went goalless in the tournament, even though the Americans had scored more goals than any other team (20) heading into this game.
Deservedly, much of the post-game focus was on Selanne, who was drafted by the Winnipeg Jets the same year Kane was born (1988).
Selanne, who also won the 2007 Stanley Cup with Anaheim, has truly nailed down his place in the history books. He leaves with a modern-era Olympic career record of 43 points (24+19=43).
"He's a living legend of Finnish hockey," said Westerlund. "It's hard to find words to say how important he's been for us."
With the bronze, Selanne and Finnish assistant captain Kimmo Timonen join Russia’s Vladislav Tretiak and Igor Kravchuk, Czechoslovakia’s Jiri Holik, and fellow countrymen Jere Lehtinen and Saku Koivu in the exclusive group of seven hockey players who have won four Olympic medals. Selanne and Timonen each won one silver and three bronze medals.
"Unbelievable," said Selanne. "It's something that's hard to describe. I played my first national team game 26 years ago, and if somebody would tell me that I'm going to win four Olympic medals, it would be hard to believe. It's overwhelming, for sure."
And with 37 career Olympic games, Selanne ranks second only to Raimo Helminen (39).
"[Olli] Jokinen, [Kimmo] Timonen, [Sami] Salo, myself, whose careers in the national team are pretty much over, what a great ending," said Selanne.
With the way the Finns were throwing their bodies around, it wasn’t hard to see who wanted this game the most.
A penalty shot was awarded to the Americans with 6:20 left in the first period because Timonen illegally played a piece of a broken stick toward a puck-carrying Ryan Kesler.
Kane was chosen to take the shot – in a sort of rematch of the 2013 Stanley Cup final between Kane’s Hawks and Rask’s Boston Bruins. Rask won this duel as Kane’s backhand deke skittered wide.
Selanne drew first blood for Finland at 1:27 of the second period on the rush, taking a nice feed from Granlund and beating U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick with a razor-sharp backhand on the short side.
Just 11 seconds later, the Finns went up 2-0 on a beautiful three-way passing play. Petri Kontiola knifed it to Lehtera, who entered the U.S. zone and then fed it across to Jussi Jokinen. He banged it into the open side with Quick caught overanticipating.
The Americans called a timeout to regroup, but they still couldn’t solve Rask.
"We came to the tournament for gold, but we've got to get to grips with the reality that we had a chance for a bronze medal for our country and we should have laid it all on the line," said David Backes. "I'm not sure that's what happened."
At 6:24, Leo Komarov slashed and broke Kane’s stick to foil a breakaway chance, and Kane got his second penalty shot. Again he failed, putting it high off the post past Rask’s glove.
In the third period, just as a tripping minor to Kane had expired, Hietanen pounded home a long slapper through traffic to make it 3-0 at 6:10.
Selanne got his fourth tally of these Games at 9:06, with Granlund slipping him a nifty centering pass from the goal line on the man advantage.
Maatta made it 5-0 on the power play at 13:09 on a nice set-up from Lehtera, rushing into the right faceoff circle and hammering it past Quick's skate.
"It’s great to see Maatta," Ossi Vaananen said of the Olympic rookie defenceman. "This is pretty much the first time I’ve seen him playing, and I’m very impressed with the kid. He’s very poised and calm for 19 years old."
The U.S. offence simply dried up down the stretch. They never scored another goal after current tournament points leader Phil Kessel (tied with Sweden's Erik Karlsson with eight) scored on the Czechs at 2:01 of the third in a 5-2 quarter-final win. Canada blanked the Americans 1-0 in the semi-final.
"They had a lot of guys back defending the blue line, and if we tried to make plays through that, there's a lot of odd-man rushes the other way, rather than getting down the wall and trying to play that NHL-style game right down their throats," said Backes. "That's what would have probably had a little bit better outcome if we'd upped our speed, made their defence go back, and tired them out by hitting them all the time."
The U.S. lost an Olympic third-place game for the second time. The first case was in Albertville 1992, where Czechoslovakia prevailed 6-1.
In the thirteenth all-time Olympic meeting between these nations, Finland’s record improved to four wins, two ties, and seven losses.