Seventy-five-years ago, Finland fended off a Russian invasion. Today in Sochi, the Russians couldn’t fend off the Finnish invaders.
As in 1939, the Russians struck first. Ilya Kovalchuk scored on a Russian power play at 7:51 of the first frame. Less than two minutes later, Petri Kontiola set up Juhamatti Aaltonen to deadlock the contest. At 17:38 of the same period, Teemu Selanne scored on a Mikael Granlund assist. At 5:37 of the second period, Mikael Granlund added an insurance goal off of assists by Selanne and Kimmo Timonen.
Finland proved that the best defense is a good defense by flooding the middle of the ice with fives skaters, their defensemen blocking numerous Russian shots, and goalie Tuuka Rask stopping 37 of 38 pucks. The Russians appeared desperate throughout much of the third period, leaving stars Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Malkin in long past the point of exhaustion. After inexplicably icing the puck several times–drawing whistles (translation: boos) from the home audience–the Russians pulled the goalie at 18:55. During a frantic final minute, the squad with 16 NHL stars couldn’t get the puck in the net despite multiple opportunities.
The Russian team’s dejection amplifies not because it goes home after high hopes but because it is home with those hopes dashed. This marks the 3rd consecutive Olympics without a medal for Russia, which hasn’t won gold since a part of the Unified Team in 1992. Finland plays Sweden in the semifinals.