|Finland goalie Tuukka Rask keeps an eye on Russian forward Alex Ovechkin during Wednesday's quarterfinals in Sochi. Rask made 18 saves in Finland's 3-1 victory. (Photo by Getty Images) |
For the third consecutive Winter Games, Russia will leave empty-handed. The host country fell to Finland 3-1 in the Olympic quarterfinals Wednesday, ending Team Russia’s dream of its first medal since 2002.
Center Pavel Datsyuk is the third Red Wings player whose country was eliminated from the Olympics, joining Slovakia’s Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco. Datsyuk finished the tournament with two goals and four assists, helping Russia to 2-0-1 preliminary tournament record and a 1-1 finish in the single-elimination playoffs.
Russia was one of the favorites to win the gold medal in Sochi, but Finland pulled out a defining upset that ranks near the top of six-time Olympian Teemu Selanne’s career victories.
“Oh obviously it’s pretty high, here in Russia in the Olympics where all the best players are, it’s huge,” Selanne told NBC Sports Net’s Pierre McGuire. “And especially our best center’s out in this tournament and we don’t have the depth that some other teams have so we gotta be very proud of it.”
The combination of Datyuk and Ilya Kovulchuk continued to pay dividends for Team Russia in the first period of the quarterfinal game, as the Red Wings forward hit Kovulchuk for a one-timer that gave the Russians a 1-0 lead.
But after allowing zero goals in 125 minutes leading up to the matchup, Russia gave up three straight en route to the loss. Juhamatti Aaltonen tied the game midway through the first, and Selanne scored the game-winning goal eight minutes later to close the opening period of a game that he knows very easily could have marked his final Olympic appearance.
“The whole day I was thinking about that you know what it might be my last one but I told Kimmo Timonen it’s not over yet but it’s a great feeling,” Selanne said. “This national team has been so important for me so I’m thankful that we have been able to play for our country.”
The feed from Mikael Granlund set up the 43-year-old’s 22nd Olympic tally and his second of the tournament.
Selanne returned the favor five minutes into the second period, finding Granland in front of the net for a power play goal. Granland’s score gave Finland a two-goal advantage that would stand as the game’s final score.
Sergei Bobrovski replaced Semyon Varlamov in goal shortly after Finland’s third goal, and made two spectacular saves within the last five minutes to keep the Russians within two goals.
But the deficit was too much for Russia to overcome, as Finland eliminated one of the gold-medal favorites from the Olympic tournament.
“I couldn’t yell or scream,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said of the celebration in the crease following his 37-save performance. “I made that save right before so I was gassed, guys were just screaming, pretty happy.”
With the victory, Finland advances to the semifinals where they will face Sweden on Friday.Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea