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Finns Take Down Canada

by Staff Writer / Toronto Maple Leafs

TURIN, Italy (CP) -- Teemu Selanne and Niko Kapanen scored in the first period and Antero Niittymaki made 24 saves as Finland defeated Canada 2-0 at the Winter Olympics on Sunday, handing the defending champions their second straight shutout loss of the Games.

The defeat left Canada 2-2 in preliminary round play, but it went into the game having already clinched a spot in the quarter-finals.

Germany, which tied Switzerland 2-2 Sunday, can match Canada's four points for the final quarter-final placing if it beats Finland and Canada loses to the Czech Republic on Tuesday, but Canada would still advance because it beat Germany 5-1 earlier in the tournament.

Finland (4-0) will play the Americans in the quarter-finals.

"It doesn't matter if you're 4-0 and playing great,'' said Finnish captain Saku Koivu. "One game in the quarter-finals and you may be out. There's a long way to go.''

Canada was coming off a 2-0 loss to the Swiss on Saturday, the first time it has been shut out since full participation of NHL players debuted with the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan. Finland made it two shutout losses in a row.

Finland, now 4-0, had the early jump, outshooting Canada 10-2 in the opening 10 minutes. Only stellar goaltending from Roberto Luongo kept Canada in the game.

Finland has allowed only two goals in the tournament -- both in a 4-2 win over the Czechs on Saturday. Niittymaki has two shutouts and Fredrik Norrena has another.

Shots were 30-24 in favour of Finland.

Most alarming for Canada is that it has yet to play a solid game. It's two opening wins were against relative lightweights Italy and Germany.

The crowd of 3,433 at Torino Esposizione was decidedly pro-Canadian, but a few boos were heard as Canada's band of star shooters came up empty.

"We didn't have our legs,'' said Canadian captain Joe Sakic. "It seemed guys were tired and flat. After a game like this where we were outplayed, you have to find a way. We have to get a rest, come back recharged and play with more confidence.''

Sakic was in the lineup despite suffering a small cheek fracture Saturday against Switzerland. He wore a full face shield.

The Finns jumped on opportunities to take the lead and then used dogged and disciplined checking to keep Canada's star shooters at bay.

Koivu won a battle for the puck behind the Canadian net with Chris Pronger and fed unmarked Selanne for a shot into an open side 11:14 into the game. It was Selanne's tournament-leading sixth goal.

The Finns got a lucky one at 15:02 when Kimmo Timonen's point shot was deflected high by Ville Niemenin and came off the back boards onto Kapanen's stick for a tap-in.

Canada picked up the pace in the second period and had a glittering chance when Joe Thornton sent Rick Nash in on a breakaway, only to be stopped by Niittymaki.

Martin St. Louis was stopped alone at the side of the net five minutes into the third period.

The IIHF brought no further discipline against Finnish forward Jarkko Ruutu for his nasty elbow to Czech star Jaromir Jagr's head on Saturday. Ruutu was given a game misconduct and Jagr left the game. Ruutu, a Vancouver Canuck, was back in Finland's lineup against Canada and Jagr played Sunday against Italy.

Notes: Canada and Finland are tied (5-5) all-time in Olympic play, including a quarter-final win in 2002 in Salt Lake City. The Finns beat Canada in the 1998 bronze medal game. ... Selanne and Koivu shared the scoring lead at the 1998 Games with 10 points each. ... The top official each of the squads are former linemates with the Edmonton Oilers -- Wayne Gretzky for Canada and Jari Kurri for Finland.

Three stars

1. Antero Niittymaki, Finnish goaltender was flawless, if rarely tested.

2. Niko Kapanen, scored a goal and led a effective checking line with Niklas Hagman and Ville Nieminen.

3. Roberto Luongo, the score may have been much more one-sided if he wasn't solid in goal.

 

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