Jesse Joensuu beat Jimmy Howard up high with just nine seconds remaining in regulation as the defending champion co-host Finland stunned the United States with a 3-2 come-from-behind win in Helsinki in the quarterfinals at the 2012 IIHF World Championship on Thursday.
With the teams apparently headed for overtime, Joensuu, a former Islander who this season played with Jonkoping of the Swedish Elite League, parked himself in front of the U.S. net and fired in a loose puck, finding a small spot above Howard's right shoulder. The goal, Joensuu's second of the game, allowed Finland to gain revenge for a 5-0 loss to the U.S. just five days earlier in the preliminary round.
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"I've watched the World Championships on TV for 18 years, and to be here now is fantastic," said Joensuu. "Those were my first goals on the national team. Nice to get them now."
Deadlocked 1-1 after 40 minutes, the U.S. appeared to take control when Bobby Ryan scored just 1:39 into the third. Through most of the final 20 minutes, the U.S. did a fine job of limiting Finland's chances, but the top line of Mikko Koivu, Jussi Jokinen and Valterri Filppula could be contained for so long.
After applying sustained pressure in the U.S. zone after American captain Jack Johnson broke his stick, Finland tied the game with seven minutes remaining when Jokinen's centering pass went off Koivu's skate and into the net. With the hometown crowd cheering on the defending champs, the scene was then set for Joensuu's winner.
Joensuu opened the scoring for Finland in the second period, firing a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that eluded Howard. The U.S. responded just 21 seconds later when Kyle Palmieri scored his second of the tournament, off a perfect pass across the Finnish crease from Jeff Petry.
Both teams had their chances but came up empty-handed in a scoreless first period. Finland peppered Howard in the final minute of the first, with the top line of Koivu, Jokinen, and Filppula getting several chances.
Finland outshot the U.S. 31-26.
After an impressive tournament in which a team with very little World Championship experience topped Canada and Finland in preliminary-round play, the U.S. seemed poised to win a medal at the Worlds for the first time since earning bronze in 2004.
"We knew it would be a tough game," said U.S. coach Scott Gordon. "We battled and certainly had our chances, but tonight they were just a little bit better than us. In the end, I liked our group and thought they represented our country extremely well."
With the win, Finland will continue the defense of its 2011 title in the semifinals Saturday in Helsinki against Russia.
Russia 5, Norway 2
Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring in his first appearance at the 2012 World Hockey Championship and Ilya Nikulin capped a three-goal third to help Russia remain undefeated and avoid the second major upset of the day.
Just minutes after top-seeded Canada was eliminated by Slovakia in one quarterfinal, Russia took the ice in Stockholm with two new stars on their roster in Ovechkin and Capitals teammate Alexander Semin. The two forwards, who were invited by the Russian Hockey Federation following Washington's second-round elimination in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, were paired on the top line with Pavel Datsyuk. Just 7:26 into the opening period, the NHL teammates hooked up to open the scoring.
Norway's Per-Age Skroder scored just three minutes later to tie the game, but Alexander Popov scored to give Russia a 2-1 lead as he was sent in alone on Norway goaltender Lars Haugen thanks to an outlet pass from Alexei Yemelin.
Russia dominated the second period, outshooting Norway 16-4, but Patrick Thoreson, the tournament's top scorer, had the period's only goal when he scored on the power play just 28 seconds in. Norway kept the game tied by killing off three separate minor penalties against the tournament's second-ranked power play.
Russia put the game away in the third, starting with Yemelin's point shot that beat Haugen just 55 seconds into the period. Russia overwhelmed Norway the rest of the way, getting goals from Nikolai Zherdev and Nikulin.