Feb 19, 2014, 9:55 AM EDT
On Wednesday, that dream died.
Finland beat Russia 3-1 in front of a partisan Russian crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, stifling the host country for most of the game while setting off a national nightmare in the process.
Russia came into this tournament with huge hopes riding on hockey gold. Ovechkin joked a gold medal would “only cost $50-billion” — well, we think he was joking — and his teammates also acknowledged the pressure to win it all. Yet their tournament will end with a quarterfinal loss, and Finland deserves full credit for ending it.
Juhamatti Aaltonen, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund all scored for Finland, with the three goals coming unanswered after Ilya Kovalchuk opened the scoring for the Russians midway through the first period. Granlund, 21, has stepped up for the Finns after injuries kept veteran forwards Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula from participating in the Olympics, and now has a team-high five points.
If today’s game showed one thing, though, it’s the importance of quality goaltending in a single elimination tournament. Tuukka Rask was absolutely brilliant for the Finns, stopping 37 of 38 shots. Russia, meanwhile, got an uneven start from Semyon Varlamov — chased after allowing three goals — and was forced to insert Sergei Bobrovsky early in the second period.
The Russian goaltending situation will likely come under fire. Head coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov went back and forth between Varlamov and Bobrovsky all tournament long; conversely, Finland’s started Rask in three of its four games, including the last two against Canada and Russia.
This wasn’t just about goaltending, however. Finland played a smart, efficient game and outworked the Russians on a number of occasions. At no time was that more evident than on Selanne’s game-winning goal; Granlund chased down and stripped Slava Voynov for a loose puck before centering to Selanne, who broke his own record (set five days ago) as the oldest goalscorer in Olympic history.
As such, the Finns will now face Sweden in the semifinal for the chance to advance to Sunday’s gold medal game.
The Russians, meanwhile, will face a number of questions.
- Jonathan Toews talks about the Patrick Kane situation 12
- Voynov detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement 13
- Ex-‘Hawks goalie Raanta tees off on former club 31
- Report: Hawks feel Kane ‘disrespected’ team, have received trade calls 119
- Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane? 82
- Hall of Famer Al Arbour passes away 22
- Poll: Who will be San Jose’s next captain? 24
- Mike Richards charged with possession of controlled substance 95
- Gio won’t go: Flames extend Giordano for six years, $40.5M 13
- Pens’ plan for now: Crosby starts as Kessel’s center 25
- Report: Hawks feel Kane ‘disrespected’ team, have received trade calls (119)
- Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane? (82)
- Report: Hawks’ Kane has not been asked to waive his no-move clause (47)
- Lucic jokes about running through Rask ‘like I did (to) another goalie’ (42)
- It’s Chicago Blackhawks day at PHT (41)