By Larry Lage
SOCHI, Russia: The Finnish Flash finished off his sixth Olympics with a sweet victory.
Teemu Selanne scored two goals and Tuukka Rask had a 27-save shutout, helping Finland rout the United States 5-0 Saturday to win hockey bronze at the Sochi Games.
Selanne and Jussi Jokinen scored 11 seconds apart early in the pivotal second period. The Finns had three goals in the third against a team that looked like it would rather be at home.
Finnish forward Mikael Granlund said he’s thrilled that Selanne, his idol, capped his Olympic career with a victory.
“He’s 43 years old and can still play at this level,” said Granlund, 21. “You can’t understand how important he is for Finland.”
Finland has won four medals in the past five Olympics, more than any other nation in the NHL era.
Before the match became a rout in the final period, it was a game of missed opportunities for the Americans.
Patrick Kane couldn’t convert on a penalty shot in each of the first two periods. He missed the net to the right on his first one-on-one duel and hit the right crossbar on his second.
“The first one kind of rolled on me I thought I had him,” he said. “The second one I made a good shot and it just hit the post. I had some chances today, I just didn’t really capitalize on anything.”
Kane, who also missed a breakaway in overtime against Russia, said Saturday’s setback was one of the most frustrating games of his career.
“Whether it was confidence or not getting enough chances, who really knows at the end of the day,” he said. “I thought I had opportunities. Obviously, it would have been nice burying that breakaway against Russia and [then] you get two penalty shots.
“You think you’re in three times against the goaltender alone and hopefully you could score a couple of times out of that. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
No, it wasn’t.
The Americans wasted a chance to earn medals in consecutive Olympic hockey tournaments for the first time since winning gold in 1960 and silver in 1956.
Finland, meanwhile, took advantage of two power plays in the third period with goals to put the United States away in a game it didn’t look interested in competing in after falling behind 2-0.
If the league and players’ union do not let the world’s best players go to South Korea in four years, Kane and Co. may never get a shot to help the Americans win a gold medal that has been elusive since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.”
Jonathan Quick, starting ahead of silver-medal winning goaltender Ryan Miller, stopped all eight shots that got to him in the first before giving up five goals on just 21 shots over the last two periods.
Selanne, who has said he will retire after playing for the Anaheim Ducks this season, skated off the ice in Sochi for the final time with 20 seconds to play and hugged two teammates on the bench before leaping back over the boards at the final buzzer.
While someone behind the Finns’ bench threw a slew of white sheets of paper high into the air, the team gathered around Rask’s net for a jubilant celebration.
From the ice, Selanne reached over the boards to embrace every assistant coach and executive on Finland’s bench. The popular player got lifted off his skates more than once by hugs. The predominantly Russian crowd roared in support of the Finns.
With bronze medals around their necks, Selanne led his team on a victory lap as the players threw bouquets of flowers to fans before posing for a picture at center ice.
The United States seemed set up to end its Olympic hockey championship drought, or at least come home with a medal, with a group of talented players in their prime.
It started well, routing Slovakia, outlasting the host Russians in an eight-round shootout and cruising past Slovenia and the Czech Republic by a combined score of 20-6.
The Americans were humbled by defending champion Canada, which also beat them in the gold-medal game in 2010, with a 1-0 win that was more lopsided than the score indicated.
Then, they got embarrassed by Finland.