Both teams involved in Saturday’s bronze medal men’s hockey game dealt with crushing disappointment the day before, but only one squad responded well.
Behind two goals from 43-year-old legend Teemu Selanne and one each by Pittsburgh Penguins teammates Jussi Jokinen and Olli Maatta, Finland strangled Team USA 5-0 at Bolshoy Ice Dome (BOX SCORE) to earn its fifth medal in the past six Olympics.
While Finland managed to shrug off Friday’s semifinal loss to rival Sweden, the United States could only muster one good period out of three following its letdown against Canada. The Americans had a 12-8 shot advantage and the better of all-around play in the opening 20 minutes Saturday, but Selanne and Jokinen scored goals 11 seconds apart early in the second to start the boulder rolling downhill for the Finns.
Finland – which claimed silver in 2006, plus bronze in 1994, 1998 and 2010 – clinched its latest piece of precious metal with three goals in the third period, including power-play strikes by Selanne and Maatta. While the 19-year-old Maatta finished his first Olympics with three goals and two assists, Selanne has an all-time record 24 goals in his six Olympic tournaments.
Jokinen enjoyed a fine Olympiad himself, making up for a couple near-misses in recent games with his second goal in six games. The second-year Penguin also had three assists and a plus-4 rating for Finland (4-2).
Pittsburgh defenseman Paul Martin missed his second straight game with a hand injury, leaving fellow blueliner Brooks Orpik as the lone Penguin to compete in the bronze medal game for Team USA (4-2). Once again, offense was the issue for Dan Bylsma‘s squad, which netted 20 goals in its first four games but went scoreless over its final 137:59.
Finland goalie Tuukka Rask, a familiar foil for Penguins fans, stopped 27 shots to earn the shutout. USA winger Patrick Kane earned two penalty shots against Rask, but he failed to hit the net on both opportunities, capping a goal-less tournament for the Blackhawks scoring star.
The Americans are left with a host of questions after their Olympic burnout, as they failed to score an even-strength goal against medal contenders Russia, Canada and Finland. USA squeezed out a signature shootout win over the Russians last Saturday and topped the Czech Republic 5-2 in the quarterfinals, but appeared to be unable to generate much offense when battling stronger nations.
As for Jokinen and Maatta, they’ll bring medals back to Pittsburgh as the Penguins prepare to restart their NHL schedule next week. Before that, Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz will hunt gold in Canada’s final showdown with Sweden on Sunday morning.