VANCOUVER – With a 5-0 victory over Germany, Finland set up a showdown for first place in Group C with Sweden on Sunday. Teemu Selänne gained sole possession of the all-time Olympic points lead (37).Click here for the photo gallery of the game.
After receiving an assist on the Kimmo Timonen power-play marker that made it 3-0 Finland late in the second period, the 39-year-old “Finnish Flash” now has 20 career goals and 17 assists. That surpasses the old modern-day record of 36 points that the five-time Olympian shared with Canada's Harry Watson, Czechoslovakia's Vlastimil Bubnik, and the USSR's Valeri Kharlamov.
"I didn't know this record was possible before I came here," said Selänne. "It wasn't my goal. But it's a big honour, obviously. I've never been a big numbers guy, but I think this'll be a bigger thing one day when I look back at my hockey career.
Selänne achieved the feat despite wearing a protective mask due to the broken jaw he suffered last month with the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. Captain Saku Koivu retrieved the record-setting puck from the linesman and handed it over to the Finnish trainers for safe-keeping.
"Back then, those Russian guys [like Kharlamov] were on a different planet and you never thought that a Finnish guy could compete with them," said Koivu. "Now he passed them, too. That's amazing, and I am really happy for him.
Adding to the good vibes, Selänne's family was rinkside. "I tried to get another point in the last game, but then I thought, 'My family is coming to this game,' so I should probably save that," Selänne said with a smile. "And it really happened."
Looking ahead to Sunday's rivalry game versus Sweden, Finnish defenseman Sami Salo said: "It's the same as the US and Canada. You play all the way to the end. It goes back to the old days when the Swedes used to own the Finns. It's gone on for generations, and it's fun to be part of those games. They're tough to play in and everybody gives 100 percent."
Against Germany at Canada Hockey Place, Timonen paced the Finnish attack with two goals, and Tuomo Ruutu, Jarkko Ruutu, and Joni Pitkänen also scored. Four goals came with the man advantage.
Netminder Niklas Bäckström earned the shutout in his Olympic debut as Finland outshot Germany 35-24.
The game started off as the gritty, hard-working clash you'd expect from arguably the two most North American-style European teams at these Olympics.
The Finns capitalized on their first power play just 4:21 in. Janne Niskala powered a slapshot through German goalie Dimitri Pätzold's legs and Tuomo Ruutu poked home the rebound on the goal line to make it 1-0.
Bäckström made his best early save with 1:17 left in the opening stanza, stoning Manuel Klinge with his glove on a give-and-go German rush.
Pätzold looked shaky early in the second period, allowing another shot to skitter dangerously through his five-hole, and then losing track of the puck on a pad save.
It didn't take long for Finland to get another power play goal. At 4:04, Timonen pinched deep into the goal crease and deflected in the 2-0 tally on a cross-crease feed from Olli Jokinen.
With under six minutes left in the middle frame, Bäckström stopped Marco Sturm on a partial breakaway, plus the rebound.
At 16:03, Timonen scored his second of the night from the line through traffic, and the offensively challenged Germans lost any hope of a comeback. Finnish players and fans rejoiced for Selänne, the two-time Olympic scoring leader (1998, 2006).
"He is one of the top players ever," Jarkko Ruutu said of Selänne. "There are not many guys who can match him on or off the ice, in the NHL or on the national team. I've played with him in many tournaments, and you can't say enough good words about him."
At 7:10 of the third, the Finns stretched their lead to 4-0 after some great passing in the German end. Jarkko Ruutu slammed a rebound into the gaping net with Patzold down and out, and did a celebratory somersault after falling over. Ruutu, a notorious agitator, used to hear his name chanted at this arena by Vancouver Canucks fans.
Less than two minutes later, Joni Pitkanen's power-play blast from the blueline put the Finns up by five.
Even a late holding penalty to Jarkko Ruutu wouldn't stop Bäckström from coolly holding on to his shutout, as his teammates checked with tenacity.
The Finns, silver medalists in Turin behind Sweden four years ago, are looking to win their first-ever Olympic gold medal in 2010.
"Everyone is talking about Canada and Russia, which is great for us," said Selänne. "Obviously we know we can't compete against those teams in a seven-game series, but it's one game. You never know. Whoever's hot will win. That's why this tournament is so exciting and interesting."
"It was an unfortunate thing that happened in Turin -- we lost one game and it was the gold medal game," said Koivu. "I hope we can peak at the right time here. There are a lot of things we can do better."
Germany and Belarus, both winless, will clash on Saturday to determine who finishes third in Group C.