HALIFAX – Finland’s third period attack fuels 3-2 comeback over Team USA and keeps hopes of winning Group F of the Qualifying Round at the 2008 IIHF World Championships alive.
In a game marred by penalties and an end of game scrum, a late goal by Mikko Koivu with 3:50 remaining gives Finland the win.
"This was the first real test for us," said Ville Peltonen. "We killed off a lot of penalties and came back to win."
Finland was left without the services of one of its top six forwards when Olli Jokinen was booted from the game after a checking from behind penalty late in the first period on Tim Gleason.
In the first frame, Finland enjoyed the best chances of the period with some early and frenzied action in the USA zone. Finland outshot Team USA 8-4.
The American power play that has been so effective throughout the tournament was unable to get going on this golden opportunity.
Tom Gilbert opened scoring in the second period. Gilbert had drifted in from his spot on the point to pick up a loose puck in from of the net and deposit it home for a 1-0 lead.
In the closing minute of the second Kessel added a power play goal for good measure. Kessel’s pinpoint shot went far side high on Niklas Backstrom with 45 seconds remaining. It was his fourth goal of the tournament, which leads the team.
With the number of penalties called against Finland the American power play could not convert. The power play has been an asset for their side thus far in the tournament but could not get things going today.
In the third, the Finns become more desperate in their attack that led to some of their best chances of the game but Robert Esche continued coming up strong. The bulk of the period was spent in the American zone as Finland worked the puck low in creating chances and drawing penalties.
Finland got on the board when Ville Koistinen scored on the first power play off a feed from Saku Koivu. The goal was a game changer as the momentum carried over to the Finnish side.
With 9:16 remaining Selanne tied the game and made the crowd come alive when he positioned himself perfectly off to Esche’s left side near the net. Saku Koivu’s precise pass was on the tape and Selanne need only direct it in.
Koivu had two assists in the period.
Despite a timeout by the Americans, Finland continued to attack and their confidence grew with each wave.
"We weren't keeping it simple anymore, and it cost us." Said Gilbert of the American performance in the third. "There were a lot of penalties called both ways so it was tough to get into any sort of rhythm."
Mikko Koivu’s goal was the final touch to bring Finland all the way back in what was its best clutch performance of the tournament.
"We always know we have a chance to win if we play our game," said Selanne.
At the end of the game there was a melee with players getting into physical confrontations, including a fight between David Backes and Anssi Salmela, who was bloodied. Both received match penalties.
"It's a hockey game you can't expect not to get hit out there," said Gilbert.
Matt Greene and Antti-Jussi Niemi both received leaving the bench penalties and game misconducts. Teemu Selanne was assessed roughing minors; Dustin Brown was assessed a checking to the head and neck minor and a misconduct.
For Jokinen, Backes, and Salmela, their match penalties draw an automatic one-game suspension. All three will miss their team's next game, and their actions are subject to automatic review which will take place on Tuesday, the day before the quarter-finals.
Jokinen and Salmela will be lost for Finland's next game against Canada to decide the winner of Group F. Backes will be lost for Team USA's game against Norway.
Both teams play tomorrow at the Halifax Metro Centre.
NOTE: The IIHF formally acknowledged after the game that Koistinen's shot had, indeed, entered the side of the net and should not have counted, and the video-goal judge will not be working for the rest of the tournament.