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Finland bulls way to win over Belarus

by Shawn P. Roarke / Detroit Red Wings

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-- White it was not as easy early on as Team Finland may have hoped, the Finns were able to pull away with a 5-1 win against a determined, but outmanned, Belarus in Wednesday's opener of Group C play at Canada Hockey Place.
The Finns received power-play goals -- from Olli Jokinen and Niklas Hagman -- as well as a beautiful solo effort from Hagman later in the second period -- to finally put down a Belarusian team keen on an upset.
Detroit forward Valtteri Filppula added an insurance goal for the Finns in the third period's first minute. Ottawa's Jarkko Ruutu added another goal with seven minutes left in the game
Finland alternate captain Teemu Selanne, a forward with the Anaheim Ducks, got the secondary assist on Jokinen's game-opening goal, just 3:24 into the contest, to tie the Olympic record for most points in a career.
Selanne now has 20 goals and 36 points in Olympic competition. According to the IIHF record book, he is tied with Czechoslovakia's Vlastimil Bubnik, Russia's Valeri Kharlamov and Canada's Harry Watson for the most points in the modern era, which begins with the 1956 Games.

Finland's Saku Koivu earned the primary assist on Jokinen's goal -- not only winning the faceoff to Selanne, but then threading a perfect cross-slot pass to Jokinen for the easy one-timer -- and is now just two assists away from tying the Olympic mark for career assists. Kharlamov currently holds the record with 20.

While the line of Saku Koivu, Selanne and Jere Lehtinen is expected to be the primary scoring line for the Finns in this tournament -- Koivu and Selanne were top scorers in 2006, when Finland took silver -- it was Hagman who provided the Finns with the cushion they needed to put away a Belarusian side entertaining fantasies of repeating the shocking upset it pulled on Sweden in the 2002 Olympic quarterfinals in Salt Lake City.

In that game, the Belarusians used some timely scoring, some lucky breaks and the brilliant goaltending of Andre Mezin, now a backup for Belarus, to shock the hockey world.

On Wednesday afternoon at CHP, Vitali Koval tried to play the hero for the Belarusians, who feature a dozen players from the same club team, Dynamo Minsk of the KHL. He stopped 15 of 17 shots in the first period, allowing just two power-play goals.

Montreal forward Sergei Kostitsyn then cut the deficit to 2-1 just 21 seconds into the second, slamming a one-timer past Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. It was just Belarus' third shot of the game.

Suddenly, the Finns were grabbing sticks a little more tightly, at least until Hagman's superb individual effort restored some breathing room with two minutes left in the period.

The Calgary forward burrowed into the Belarusian zone to track down a hard dump-in by Mikko Koivu along the left half boards, then cut between a pair of defensemen to get into the slot before a backhander from his knees beat Koval to the far post.

Hagman's first goal, the first-period power-play tally, also came on the backhand.
Filppula added a fourth goal for Finland just 23 seconds into the third, tipping home a Mikko Koivu slapper from the high slot. That play was also set up with an aggressive forecheck that forced Viktor Kostiuchenok to make an ill-advised clear up the middle of the ice.

Finland continues its Group C campaign on Friday against Germany, which plays Sweden later this afternoon. Belarus, meanwhile, will play against Sweden later on Friday.



FIN  2 1 2 - 5
BEL  0 1 0 - 1

First Period Scoring: 1. FIN, Jokinen (S. Koivu, Selanne) 3:24 (PPG); 2. FIN Hagman (M. Koivu, Pitkanen) 17:50 (PPG).

First Period Penalties:
Makritski BEL (holding) 2:41, Ryadinski BEL (hooking) 15:55.

Second Period Scoring: 3. BEL, Kostitsyn (Demagin) 0:21; 4. FIN, Hagman (M. Koivu) 16:52.

Second Period Penalties: Kukkonen FIN (holding) 8:34, Bench BEL (too many men served by Demagin) 12:34, Salo FIN (hooking) 14:01.

Third Period Scoring: 5. FIN, Filppula (M. Koivu) 0:23; 6. FIN, J. Ruutu (Kukkonen, Kapanen) 12:59.

Third Period Penalties:
Karev BEL (tripping) 1:13, Stasenko BEL (slashing) 6:06, Makritski BEL (tripping) 10:11.

FIN  17 11 17 - 45
BEL   2   2   8 - 12

Goaltenders (goals-shots against): FIN: Kiprusoff (W, 1-12); BEL: Koval (L, 5-45).

Power plays (goals-chances):
FIN: 2-6; BEL: 0-2.

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