LIVE BLOG: Team USA 6, Finland 1 (Final)
SI.com hockey writer Allan Muir is live-blogging Team USA's Olympics semifinal match with Finland in Vancouver.
5:20 PM -- My three stars for the game:
1. Patrick Kane. He's had a big bag of nothing for much of the tournament, but two key goals midway through the first period blew this game wide open.
2. Jack Johnson. Handled his biggest workload of the tournament with discipline and aplomb.
3. Zach Parise. Early goal and assist paced the first period explosion, but it was his hard work in the corners that deflated the Finnish defense.
That's it for this afternoon. Remember, the gold medal game is 3 PM Eastern on Sunday. We'll see you then.
5:14 PM -- There's the final buzzer. Team USA earns a berth in the finals with a 6-1 win over Finland. A ferocious, 13-minute stretch in the first allowed them to coast the rest of the way.
5:12 PM -- Under two minutes to play. Not that it matters, but I can't recall a single scoring chance for Team USA in this period as the Finns have outshot them 14-3.
5:09 PM -- Tough break for Thomas, but moreso for Johnson who may be America's most improved player over the course of the tournament. Early on, his overly anxious play led to some horrible decisions with the puck and some inexplicable pinches that created odd-man rushes for the Norwegians and Swiss. Three games later, he's virtually eliminated all the mental hiccups and has evolved into a reliable option for Ron Wilson. Look for him to play a big role on Sunday.
5:05 PM -- GOAL, FINLAND! Antti Miettinen lets a slapper loose from the half boards, the puck appears to deflect off Jack Johnson and sails over the glove hand of Thomas.
TEAM USA 6, FINLAND 1 (14:46, 3rd period)
5:04 PM -- POWER PLAY FINLAND. Erik Johnson heads to the box for...missing a check on Tuomo Ruutu? The call is interference. Another weak whistle.
5:03 PM -- Thomas makes his first real stop, blocking an Olli Jokinen wrister from the top of the slot. Seven minutes to go.
5:01 PM -- Bobby Ryan takes an errant shot to the side of the head, but makes it to the bench under his own power. He's on the bench now, head down, ice bag on his left temple.
4:59 PM -- Power play is over, U.S. generates nothing but the clock continues to wind down. Less than 10 minutes remaining in the third.
4:58 PM -- Nice to give Thomas, a former SM-Liiga star, a chance to get some Olympic action and a smart move to ensure Miller remains healthy for the gold medal match on Sunday.
4:57 PM -- POWER PLAY TEAM USA. Sami Lepisto cross checked Ryan Malone in the mouth behind the Finnish net. Ryan Miller has been pulled. Tim Thomas in for Team USA.
4:54 PM -- A good bounce created a two-on-one chance for the Finns, but Mikko Koivu couldn't handle a bouncing pass across. The bounces giveth and taketh away.
4:53 PM -- Can't find any official blocked shot stats, but the Americans must have around 20 at this point. Miller has a shut out streak of about 110 minutes right now, but his defense is making his life easy.
4:51 PM -- The power play is over, still 6-0 for the Americans with 15 minutes to go in the third.
4:50 PM -- Finnish power play looks the same as the last one. Lots of dishing it around in the American zone, but they're not making anything happen. But hey, those passes sure do look pretty!
4:49 PM -- POWER PLAY FINLAND. Ryan Malone feels shame after high sticking a Finnish defender.
4:47 PM -- SI's Richard Deitsch says he can barely find any Team Finland jerseys, but it's remarkable how many people in the crowd are wearing Team Canada gear. The atmosphere for the game later tonight should be off the chain.
4:44 PM -- POWER PLAY TEAM USA. Looks like Backstrom gets penalized for knocking the dropped glove of Patrick Kane behind the net. That's about as weak a call as you'll see.
4:43 PM -- Third period is underway. Kesler line starts for Team USA.
4:40 PM -- Jack Johnson leading Team USA with 14:27 of ice. Looks like Ron Wilson is giving light duty to Brian Rafalski and Ryan Suter to keep them fresh for the gold medal game.
4:28 PM -- There's the end of the second period, still 6-0 for Team USA. That frame was more like what we were expecting out of this one. Pretty evenly played with few scoring chances of any significance.
TEAM USA 6, FINLAND 0 (End of 2nd Period)
4:25 PM -- Jarkko Immonen rings one off the pipe to the left of Miller.
4:18 PM -- Down to five minutes left in the second, still 6-0 Team USA.
4:17 PM -- Finns get their first real odd-man rush of the game and Ryan Suter pokes the puck away deep in the zone. Lots of appreciation being expressed for the work of Rafalski, but Suter has been just as effective for Team USA.
4:16 PM -- The Finns are showing no desire to pay the price to get into Miller's kitchen. They're settling for long wristers from the point that are giving the American goalie no trouble at all. You'd think someone on that team would do something, anything, to show some pride in the sweater.
4:11 PM -- Ryan Kesler muffs a glorious chance on the open side to make it 7-0. Power play is over, no shots for Team USA.
4:09 PM -- PENALTY FINLAND. Jarkko Ruutu gets two for roughing and a 10-minute misconduct after falling on Ryan Miller. Team USA back on the power play.
4:07 PM -- The air's out of this building. No energy at all. Not much happening on the ice right now, either.
4:04 PM -- Five minutes gone in the second. The Finns are getting the better of the play, but aren't generating premium scoring chances. Miller can probably throw on a little extra cologne and skip the shower if this keeps up.
4:01 PM -- Richard Deitsch just asked SI's Michael Farber, the Hall of Fame hockey writer, what just happened in the first period. Farber's response: "I can't explain it." Nobody can.
4:00 PM -- Power play is over. Rafalski's back on the ice. Meanwhile, Tim Gleason blocks a Joni Pitkanen point blast. Looks like it caught him in the wrist. He appears to be in some discomfort on the bench.
3:58 PM -- Second period underway. Finns still have about 90 seconds left on the power play.
3:57 PM -- Wonder if Ron Wilson keeps Ryan Miller in the rest of the game? Might be nice to reward Tim Thomas with some playing time.
3:53 PM -- Five Americans with two points in the period: Malone, Parise, Stastny, Rafalski and Kane.
3:52 PM -- Some quick digging around revealed the U.S. had 11 goals in a period against Italy in 1948.
3:48 PM -- Just a refresher for those of you who couldn't keep up: American goals scored by Ryan Malone, Zach Parise, Erik Johnson, Patrick Kane (2) and Paul Stastny. Shots were 13-4 for Team USA in the first.
3:43 PM -- And there's the end of the first, jaw-dropping period. Before this game, you would have had trouble finding anyone to take the over. The Americans covered that in the first period.
TEAM USA 6, FINLAND 0 (End of 1st Period)
3:41 PM -- PENALTY USA. Brian Rafalski penalized for taking out Val Filppula. 10 seconds to go in first period.
3:40 PM -- Wasn't it just a week ago that everyone pooh-poohed the idea of a mercy rule for the women's hockey tournament? Looks like they could use one here, too. The U.S. just wants to get out of this game with everyone healthy.
3:38 PM -- This game has a chance to replace the 1987 World Cup play-in match as Finland's worst sporting memory. In that one, Sami Mahlio's own goal cost them a match against Hungary that would have earned them a coveted bid.
3:36 PM -- View from the press box: All the Finnish flags that were waving early on have been quietly put away.
3:35 PM -- Backstrom finally blocks a shot by Kane. Bit of a derisive cheer from the crowd.
3:34 PM -- The first goal was on Kiprusoff, but since then the Finnish defense have hung their goalies out to dry. Finns just got their first shot in more than 12 minutes. Not much of a test for Miller.
3:33 PM -- The Finns haven't even sniffed the American end in the last five minutes.
3:31 PM -- This isn't a typo. Two goals in 15 seconds. Zach Parise wins a battle down low, sends it to Jamie Langenbrunner who gives it to Paul Stastny. He goes high glove for the unconverted touchdown. We're just 13 minutes into the first, guys. The Finns have completely rolled over. Unbelievable.
3:29 PM -- GOAL, TEAM USA! Second goal in 15 seconds, this one by Paul Stastny.
TEAM USA 6, FINLAND 0 (12:46)
3:28 PM -- GOAL, TEAM USA! Patrick Kane takes a stretch pass from Brian Rafalski, sends a simple wrister from the right face-off dot under Backstrom's elbow. .
TEAM USA 5, FINLAND 0 (12:31)
3:27 PM -- Kipper heads right to the locker room. He's not hurt...he just knows that he's cost his team a chance at the gold. What a massive mental meltdown from a veteran netminder. This game is just about management now for the Americans. Keep the foot on the gas and don't allow the Finns to get up off the ground.
3:26 PM -- Patrick Kane fires a shot into Kiprusoff's midsection. Dustin Brown crowds the front of the net, the rebound comes right out front. Kane fires a backhander into an empty cage. Kipper pulls himself! What a stunner.
3:25 PM -- GOAL, TEAM USA! Patrick Kane. Holy $%^&!
TEAM USA 4, FINLAND 0 (10:08)
3:24 PM -- Finns call a time-out. Can't believe they're not putting Niklas Backstrom in. Kipper just doesn't have it today. Shades of Evgeni Nabokov against Canada
3:23 PM -- Kiprusoff fails to freeze a puck on the dump in. Sends it into the corner, Ryan Malone wins the battle for the puck and sends it out front. Joe Pavelski sends it to Erik Johnson who buries it behind a rattled Kipper.
3:21 PM -- GOAL, TEAM USA! Erik Johnson on the power play.
TEAM USA 3, FINLAND 0 (8:36)
3:20 PM -- PENALTY FINLAND. Dustin Brown draws another one. U.S. back on the power play.
3:19 PM -- Need to see a replay, but it sure looks as though Parise's shot went off the crossbar and perhaps the post. No review so the goal stands. Great pass by Paul Stastny through the crease set up the goal.
3:17 PM -- GOAL, TEAM USA! Zach Parise on the power play.
TEAM USA 2, FINLAND 0 (6:22)
3:16 PM -- Six minutes gone and the Americans aren't having any problem executing their game plan. They're utilizing their speed to break through the Finnish muck in the neutral zone and upsetting Kiprusoff by squatting out front of his crease. PENALTY FINLAND. Janne Niskala sits after hauling down Dustin Brown behind the Finnish net.
3:15 PM -- SI's Richard Deitsch reports an odd atmosphere inside Canada Hockey Place. The stands are three-quarters full and about 55-45 for the Finns. The pre-game energy really lacks what we saw for Canada-Russia or Canada-U.S. And it's strange seeing empty seats at Canada's Hockey Place. There are entire rows in the front empty.
3:14 PM -- Saku Koivu gets off a snapper from 10 feet out. Miller positioned perfectly to make the stop.
3:13 PM -- Americans doing a good job planting bodies in front of Kiprusoff. Point shot winds up at his feet where the U.S. forwards get a few whacks away before he covers it up.
3:11 PM -- Kiprusoff gives the Americans a gift. He skates out to pick up a dumped-in puck and sends a soft pass to Sami Lepisto. Malone picks it off and wrists it into the empty cage. The Americans are pumped. Another fast start for Team USA.
3:09 PM -- GOAL, TEAM USA! Ryan Malone buries it in an empty net after a brutal blunder by Finland's Kiprusoff.
TEAM USA 1, FINLAND 0 (2:04)
3:08 PM: Finns create some pressure down low with T. Ruutu and M. Koivu providing the muscle.
3:06 PM: And we're under way. Kesler line starts.
2:45 PM: SI.com's Richard Deitsch is at Canada Hockey Place in Vancouver. He passed along these pre-game notes:
-The U.S. is 6-3-2 all time against Finland. They've outscored the Fins (41-27) in those games. Most famously, they beat the Fins 4-2 in the gold medal game on Feb. 24, 1980 at the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid.
-The U.S. flag that hangs in Team USA's locker room has hung in the room of five previous American teams that have captured gold, including the 2010 World Juniors squad.
-Team USA is tied for third in goals scored (16), behind Canada and Slovakia. Ryan Miller ranks first in goals against average (1.25) and is second in save percentage (.944), trailing only Finland's Miikka Kiprusoff. Team USA has taken the fewest number of minor penalties at the Olympics (10).
-The U.S. is 4/16 on the power play. They have killed off 8/10 penalties.
-The U.S. has outscored its opponents 12-2 at even strength.
PREGAME: America's hockey fans can go ahead and dream of a gold medal re-match with Canada on Sunday night. But America's hockey players know they can't afford to look past Finland, today's opponent in what looks to be a coin toss of a semifinal.
Team USA has played its way into the role of favorite after opening the tournament with four straight wins, but the 3-1 Finns pose a formidable roadblock with an eerily similar brand of hockey.
They're even playing the same cards.
"They have all the pressure," Finnish winger Teemu Selanne said of the Americans Thursday. "Nobody was counting on us to be in final four before the tournament."
That's not entirely true, of course. At least one media member (ahem) went so far as to pick the Finns for bronze. As that all-knowing scribe wrote at the time, "The Finns have won more medals than any other country since 1988, so they'll stick to the formula that's served them so well over the years: goaltending, quality coaching and a tireless effort. They won't beat themselves and they won't be intimidated. Just in terms of talent, it's hard to place them above the big three, but this team always seems to punch above its weight."
And that's exactly how it's played out to this point. Miikka Kiprusoff has been every bit as resilient as American star Ryan Miller, posting a 1.33 GAA and .946 save percentage. He's being supported by a defensive unit that's smart, positionally sound and plays within its limits. They won't beat you with the 70-foot stretch pass, but their ability to make the short, accurate dish keys a dangerous transition game. That group will be bolstered by the return of top defender Joni Pitkanen, back in the lineup after serving a one-game suspension.
And while they're not lighting up opposition goalies, the Finns are scoring when it matters. Led by Teemu Selanne, Mikko Koivu and Niklas Hagman, they lack the speed of the American forwards but boast more depth, experience and discipline and are their equal in terms of tenacity.
Team USA proved with a quarterfinal win over the Swiss it can handle the sort of tight-checking, low-scoring game that this one shapes up to be. That said, the fact they got a pair of goals from Zach Parise and a strong effort from Phil Kessel that hint at the potential for an offensive breakthrough. Both snipers have been quiet for much of the tournament. If they're on track, they give the Americans the game-breaking skill that could tilt this match in their favor.