Entering the Sochi Olympics Teemu Selanne had already carved out a legacy that would place him in a revered portion of the pantheon of ice hockey. Be it his professional exploits like a 76-goal rookie season, 14 amazing years with the Anaheim Ducks and a Stanley Cup championship in 2007, or his international excellence over the life of a record tying six Olympic appearances with one silver and two bronze medals coming into the tournament, this swan song season has been a celebration of a remarkable career. It's appropriate then that in what will likely be the final time he dons the colors of county, Selanne would equal one more Olympic record. Unfortunately for the Americans, it would serve a stark reminder that there is still much work to be done for the program to be looked upon as one of the true titans of international hockey.
Final Score: Finland 5, United States 0
First Period Recap: Coming off a game where Canada dominated puck possession and held Team USA without much in the way of quality opportunity, the opening period looked like an encouraging bounce back. Patrick Kane earned the first power play of the game, working the puck up the wall forcing Selanne to trip him just under four minutes into the game. Against a Finnish penalty kill that had only a 60% success rate coming into the game the US was able to generate three shots, including a slick between-the-legs move from James van Riemsdyk at the far post that created a rebound scramble, but couldn't get anything behind Tuukka Rask.
Moments after Leijonen killed the penalty they got their first good scoring opportunity of the game, as Petri Kontiola's shot from the far circle created all kinds of chaos in front of the net with Jonathan Quick facing multiple rebounds and getting help from three skaters crashing in the crease to keep the puck out. The bit of momentum lead to a power play opportunity when Max Pacioretty swung and missed at the puck in mid-air trying to clear it, clipping a Finnish player in the visor and drawing a high sticking minor.
After a successful kill the US got some hard work along the far wall to keep the puck in the offensive zone, when Kimmo Timonen shot a broken piece of stick that was sitting in the far circle at Kane as he worked the boards. The infraction meant a penalty shot for the US, but on Kane's attempt with a late deke to the backhand he hit the side of the net with Rask in the splits on his stomach covering the post. The US would create another bit of offense near the end of the period when Joe Pavelski sprung Pacioretty at the Finland blue line with a nice seam pass forcing Sakari Salminen to trip him. As the period came to an end the US power play carried over, but van Riemsdyk took a puck to the mouth on an attempted clear and would be extremely limited for the rest of the game. The US out-shot the Finns 12-8.
Second Period Recap: Between periods Ryan Suter summarized the Americans' medal round play to NBCSN's Pierre McGuire saying "We're disappointed we didn't show up for the game yesterday, we have to come out today and play hard ... That's a good team."
It portended doom as the US power play failed to click on the fresh ice, and nearly as soon as it was killed Mikael Granlund hit Selanne at the blue line for a partial breakaway. The Flash cut to the near circle where he whipped a backhand past Quick short-side for a 1-0 Finland lead 1:27 into the period. The goal stunned the Americans, as if a prize fighter dazed after being hit on the nose with a stiff jab.
On the ensuing face-off Finland won a puck battle at the blue line, Kontiola sprung Jori Lehtera into the zone for an odd-man opportunity with the US defense caught up ice. Trailer Jussi Jokinen took the saucered cross-slot pass and rifled the shot into an empty net a mere 11 seconds after the game's first tally. If the initial goal was a jab, this one served as a rocking right hook which waffled the Americans, and seemed to sink their confidence. Coach Dan Bylsma called timeout at 1:38 to try and regain his team's composure, but the damage had been done.
Quick made a big pad save on Antti Pihlstrom some four minutes later, reading a centering feed and pushing across to keep the deficit at two with his left leg. The stop seemed to spark the team for a stretch as they were able to possess in the Finnish zone and get some cycling play going. Kane came up with a turnover in the neutral zone and broke free, forcing Leo Komarov to hook and slash him from behind and concede a second penalty shot opportunity.
Kane was more deliberate in taking it, slowly working in with small moves before ultimately hesitating in the slot and ripping a wrister that beat Rask clean to the glove side but clanked off the goal post. From then on the American attack seemed subdued, David Backes took an offensive zone tripping penalty just past the midway mark of the period. Though Finland wouldn't score, the teams traded modest opportunities for the remaining time in the period which would end with Finland out-shooting the US by a 12-10 margin and leading 2-0.
Third Period Recap: Needing a strong start out of the gate, the US would not get it as Finland got the better of the opportunities early with Kane taking a tripping penalty near center ice just over four minutes into the period. While Finland wouldn't score on the advantage, just as it expired Jusso Heitanen skated to the top of the far circle and unleashed a slap shot that zipped its way through a maze of traffic and beat Quick far post for a 3-0 lead 6:10 into the period.
From there the red, white, and blue shoulders slumped and the Americans formed a conga line of frustrated skaters to the penalty box, which lead to further Finnish offense. T.J. Oshie took an interference penalty in the offensive zone, taking the body on Sami Salo to allow a teammate to beat him to the puck up the near wall. On the ensuing power play Lauri Korpikoski and Granlund worked well below the goal line to spring Selanne alone in front, who slammed home his second goal of the game and cued the celebration as the result seemed certain at a 4-0 advantage with 10:54 remaining.
Suter took a high sticking penalty after losing a puck battle with Tuomo Ruutu, which lead to Finland going the length of the sheet to set up an Olli Maatta goal on a shot from the near circle to close the scoring at 13:09. During the 6:59 stretch where Finland salted the game, Quick gave up the three goals on six shots, though hardly could be faulted on any of them. A misty-eyed Kane took a final penalty for the US inside the last five minutes, but mercifully the Americans killed it off.
After the game US captain Zach Parise told McGuire, "Once we gave up that first goal [we] just kind of deflated. They played like they had something to win, we kinda shut it down."
The celebration that had began in earnest with Selanne's goal kicked into full gear as the clock hit zero with Finland winning 5-0, out-shooting the US 29-27. Oft under-estimated, the team triumphed in the face of adversity and holds the distinction of having earned four medals in the five years of NHL player participation in the Winter Games. Images of Selanne hugging fellow Finnish legend Jari Kurri, kissing his bronze medal with a mixture of tears and sweat glistening on his face, and leading the blue and white clad squad around the rink saluting the fans with flags in tow served a fitting cap to another solid Olympic performance for the Finns in Sochi.
The Good: One couldn't have written a better ending for Selanne. Scoring two goals, including the game winner in his international swan song to earn his fourth medal for Finland is a suitable finale for the best to ever lace 'em up for the Leijonat. For the Finns it also served as a bit of well earned revenge for a 6-1 drubbing they took from the US in the semis at Vancouver in 2010, never taking the foot off the gas and finishing the tournament strong to claim a medal at their third straight Olympiad.
The Bad: The only thing offensive from the Americans in their final two games was the utter lack of goal production. Only three of the team's 20 goals in the tournament came against the likes of Russia, Canada, and Finland, and the team went the final 137:59 of play without a goal. Phil Kessel may currently lead the tournament with eight points, but he like the team feasted on opposition that clearly was not in the upper echelon of international play. Also Dustin Brown played all of 4:48 in the game- he was an assistant captain for the team.
The Ugly: There's something to be said for at least playing a full 60 minutes and going down swinging. The US took almost as many penalties (four) as they had shots (five) in the third period, and didn't generate a single scoring chance. Parise essentially said it after the game- once Finland got the first goal, the team completely collapsed.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Kesler remained as one of the Americans who you could still see the dogged determination and exertion of Olympian effort from even as the team's medal hopes crumbled. Despite a hand injury suffered in the group stage he managed to win 57.1% of his face-offs and saw the third most ice time on the team behind only Parise and Suter. Jonathan Quick was also nowhere near as bad as the numbers would indicate, oft left out to dry by his defense despite making several stops while under siege early in the game.
3rd Star: Jori Lehtera - One of the unheralded international leaguers on the squad, Lehtera is the perfect example of why Finland is so competitive in international tournaments. Lehtera had the primary assist on the Finns' second goal by making the perfect cross-slot pass to Jokinen after hard work turning the play in the neutral zone, finishing with two helpers and leading the team with five shots.
2nd Star: Mikael Granlund - A hero for the team at the World Championships, his chemistry with Selanne was undeniable and his excellence in the face-off circle critical. Granlund finished with two assists, winning 61.5% of his draws and was strong in his two-way play all game long.
1st Star: Teemu Selanne - From scoring the first goal of the game to the power play goal in the third period that for all intents and purposes ended any American hope, this night was Teemu's. Two goals, the game winner, tying the Olympic hockey record with four medals, and the finishing as the tournament's all time leader with 43 points on 24 goals and 19 assists is another fine page in the final chapter of his career.
Next Game: Sunday, February 23 at 4 AM PT for the gold medal showdown between Sweden and Canada. We'll have full Tweet By Play coverage at @AnaheimCalling on Twitter.