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Jokinen going back to Olympic semis

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers


Rangers forward Olli Jokinen, who won a silver medal with Finland at the 2006 Olympics in Torino, will be getting another shot at the gold in Vancouver in the wake of his Finnish team's 2-0 win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday night.

If Jokinen and the Finns are going to win gold, however, it will have to come at the expense of Team USA. Finland will face the American team that features Rangers captain Chris Drury and alternate captain Ryan Callahan in the first of two semifinals on Friday at 3 p.m. ET.

A very happy Olli Jokinen celebrates with Finnish teammate Teemu Selanne after the Finns beat the Czech Republic 2-0 on Wednesday night in Vancouver. Jokinen became the third of four Rangers players to clinch a berth in the Olympic semifinals.
Wednesday night's Finland-Czech Republic game wasn't over until Valteri Filppula of the Detroit Red Wings hit an empty net at 18:25 of the third period to turn a 1-0 game into a certain win for the Finns. The other 58 minutes boiled down to a brilliant goaltending duel between the Czech Republic's Tomas Vokoun of the Florida Panthers, and the Finns' Miikka Kiprusoff of the Calgary Flames.

Shots were even at 31-31, but it was Kiprusoff's 31 stops that made the difference in an impressive shutout win. Right to the end, the former Vezina Trophy winner was being forced to make huge saves, including one on Czech redirection just seconds before Filppula put the game away.

Kiprusoff's NHL teammate, Niklas Hagman of the Flames, scored what turned out to be the game-winner on the deflection of a power-play shot by Janne Niskala with 6:26 left in the game.

Ironically, Hagman's winning goal resulted from an IIHF rule which prevents players from competing without a helmet. Shortly before Niskala unloaded from the left point, Czech defenseman Pavel Kubina had lost his helmet while breaking up a play. Kubina's helmet slid back to the end boards, and he was forced to take himself out of the action to go get it. While Kubina was preoccupied, Hagman worked his way to the front of the net and was essentially unchallenged as he managed to screen Vokoun and get a piece of the Niskala blast.

The goal was scored with 43 seconds left in a delay-of-game penalty to Martin Erat, who had fired the puck over the glass in his defensive zone. Niskala and Hagman were both out with Finland's No. 2 power-play unit, moments after the No. 1 unit, which included Jokinen, had been applying pressure on Vokoun.

Jokinen finished the game with 12:25 of ice time. His lone shot on goal came just 2:30 into the opening period, when he came down the right side, cut through the right faceoff circle and into the slot, where Vokoun made a dramatic kick-save with his right pad to deny a well-placed shot.

For much of the game, Jokinen skated on a line with former NHL player Ville Peltonen and Ottawa's Jarkko Ruutu. The line was essentially a fourth line that provided bursts of energy for the Finns, although Jokinen also stepped up to the third line and saw shifts with Niklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen. He also was part of the Finns' veteran first power-play unit along with Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu on the forward line.

Prior to the Hagman winner, the Finnish power play had its best opportunities to score during a 5-on-3 for 1:49 of the first period, but the Czechs killed off the penalty, as well as several others in the opening 20 minutes.

At 15:41 of the second period, Jokinen took his first minor penalty of the 2010 Olympics when he inadvertently crashed into his own net while coming back to play defensively after a rush at the other end of the ice. Jokinen was called for delay of game, but the Czechs were not able to capitalize on their power-play opportunity.

Finland played the entire game without defenseman Joni Pitkanen, who was suspended for a misconduct taken in Sunday night's preliminary-round finale vs. Sweden. Pitkanen will be back in action against Team USA on Friday afternoon.
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