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Tuukka Time in Sochi, as Finland Defeats Russia 3-1

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins

BostonBruins.com - It was 6:45 p.m. in Sochi, 4:45 p.m. in Finland and 9:45 a.m. in Boston.

But "Tuukka Time" has no geographical boundaries.

Tuukka Rask came out with a stone-cold performance on Wednesday, making 37 saves en route to Finland's 3-1 win over Russia in the quarterfinals, ending the home country's bid for the gold.

Finland will now face Sweden in the semifinals on Friday, February 21, with Rask pitted against Bruins teammate Loui Eriksson.

"Even though no one ever picks us to win medals, we always seem to find a way to get there," Rask told reporters in Sochi following the game.

Although the Finns have never won gold, Finland is coming off a bronze medal in 2010 in Vancouver and is the only country to win three total medals in the tournament since NHL players first began to suit up in the Olympics in 1998.

While Rask wasn't a part of that squad four years ago, he's become in integral part of the "Leijonat" ("Lions" in Finnish) this time around.

Right from the start, Rask had to be sharp, first turning aside a quick shot by Russia's Tarasenko with his pad.

The Russians got on the board first, with Ilya Kovalchuk ripping in a one-timer on the power play through traffic, off a pass from Pavel Datsyuk. It ignited the crowd at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.

But Rask would stop 12 of 13 shots in the first, and let nothing else through.

Finland answered right back, just 1:27 later, with Juhamatti Aaltonen making a move towards the goal and finding a way past Semyon Varlamov to tie the game at 1-1.

Captain Teemu Selanne scored the go-ahead, and eventual game-winner, with just over two minutes left in the period.

Early in the second, Russia had an opportunity to score the equalizer when Alexander Ovechkin one-timed a bouncing puck, but Rask moved into position and made the stop.

Not long after, Mikael Granlund converted on the power play to give Finland the 3-1 lead they would never surrender. Sergei Bobrovski would replace Varlamov, who allowed three goals on 15 shots.

Russia gained momentum in the second, but Rask posted 11 saves, including an aggressive sliding stop on Alexander Semin all alone that saw him come out of the crease and stack the pads. Rask and defenseman Olli Maatta both then slid to stop the rebound. It was the kind of save that would have drawn out a roar of "Tuuuuuuuk" from the Garden crowd.

Rask also made a timely stop on Evgeni Malkin late in the period.

Finland was outshot 14-5 in the third, and 38-22 overall, but scored the timely goals and saw Rask turn out his best game of the tournament against the Russian firepower.

Following the game, the netminder noted to NBCSN that they got away from their game in the second period and found themselves back on their heels, but overall put out a "pretty good effort."

Russia kept firing until the end, but Rask and the Finnish defense were up to the task. The postgame huddle around the goalie was full of smiles.

"I couldn't yell or speak," he told NBCSN. "I made that save right before, so the guys were just screaming."

They likely had an entire country screaming along with them.

The Finland-Canada preliminary round game that went to overtime peaked with 2.13 million viewers in Finland, where the population is about 5.4 million. With elimination on the line, the nation was certainly tuned in for Rask and company on Wednesday.

"There's always hockey fever in Finland," Rask told me, prior to heading to Sochi. "People are crazy about it. But the Olympics, I think it's the biggest thing for the fans, too. You know, hockey's obviously the No. 1 sport in Finland, so people expect us to do well, too."

"So we'll try to be worth all of the expectations."

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