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2006 OLYMPICS: Finland Advances With Win Over USA

by Staff Writer / Colorado Avalanche
TURIN, Italy (AP) - Finland defeated the United States 4-3 on Wednesday to advance to the semifinals.

Olli Jokinen scored two power-play goals in the second period for Finland, which recovered after blowing an early two-goal lead.

The U.S. team never got going in Turin: They struggled to score when the goaltending was good, and played poor defense when the goals finally came.

The Finns will play in the semifinals on Friday against the winner of the Canada-Russia game, while the Americans (1-4-1) will try to figure out why they managed only one win after capturing the silver medal four years ago in Salt Lake City.

Rick DiPietro wasn't nearly as steady as he was in playing three straight games in the preliminary round. He allowed five goals but that was only good enough to earn the Americans one win and a fourth-place finish in their pool. DiPietro was on the short end of two consecutive 2-1 decisions before sitting out in favor of backup Robert Esche in Tuesday night's 5-4 loss to Russia that had no bearing on either team in the group standings.

The Americans pulled DiPietro in the last 90 seconds, and Finnish goalie Antero Niittymaki made 15 of his 25 saves in the third period to hold off the United States' final push. Brian Gionta closed the gap to 4-3 with 4:27 left, off a pretty feed into the crease by Chris Drury.

But Finland closed down on defense in the final period and recorded only three shots.

By claiming the last quarterfinal berth, the U.S. drew undefeated Finland that came into the game with a 5-0 mark and a 19-2 scoring edge.

Ville Peltonen gave Finland the lead when he rolled a puck between DiPietro's pads, and Sami Salo made it 2-0 with a short-handed goal before the first period was over.

The Americans rallied, however, on goals by Mike Knuble and Mathieu Schneider. But Jokinen netted his first goal at 5:06 of the second period and then made it 4-2 with 2:50 remaining in the frame.

The second goal took a circuitous route, striking DiPietro high and rebounding into the air and off the crossbar. He reached back in a desperate attempt to grab it, but instead swatted the puck into the net with his blocker.

United States penalties throughout the third period - including a 4-minute, high-sticking call against Derian Hatcher after he bloodied the mouth of Teemu Selanne - cut off any chance of a comeback. That left American general manager Don Waddell hunched over in his seat and staring at the floor.

Coach Peter Laviolette tried to shake life into his team early on by calling timeout midway through the first period when the score was already 1-0. He yelled curses as he face turned red, and finished the tirade with an emphatic, "Let's Go!"

Finland doubled its lead at 12:01 with a short-handed goal. Sami Salo forced a turnover at the blue line, as the U.S. tried to set up its power play, and raced the puck up the ice. The Americans appeared to have things covered in their zone, but Salo's hard drive from above the left circle smacked the blade of Schneider's stick and soared over DiPietro's glove.

The United States, 6-3-2 against Finland in the Olympics, got within 2-1 when Knuble deflected in Schneider's drive at 13:14 of the first. The Americans tied it when Schneider sent another blast that found the net just 1:29 into the second period.

Finland, which eliminated the United States during the semifinals of the World Cup of Hockey in 2004, then got the deciding offense from Jokinen. It was the Finns' first victory in these Olympics that was decided by fewer than two goals.

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