Finland scores three unanswered goals to beat Russia 3-1Posted: Monday February 18, 2002 5:55 PM
Updated: Monday February 18, 2002 9:59 PM
PROVO, Utah (AP) -- Russia became the latest hockey superpower to learn a lesson of international play that's been taught repeatedly in recent years.
Never forget about Finland.
Captain Teemu Selanne scored the first of three straight goals as Finland surprised Russia 3-1 Monday to clinch second place in its Olympic hockey group.
"I'm happy with the result, but I'm more happy with the way we played," Finland coach Hannu Aravirta said. "After a bad loss to the Unites States and an easy win over Belarus we weren't sure what this team is capable of doing."
Mikko Eloranta and Jere Lehtinen also scored for the Finns, who continued their long tradition of countering their talent disadvantages with workmanlike play, conservative defense and flashes of offensive brilliance, mostly from Selanne.
After being dominated in the final two periods, the mighty Russians were knocked to third place in the group. Once again, Finland has become a surprise medal contender.
"We let other teams do the commentating and the handicapping and the head games," defenseman Teppo Numminen said. "We don't do that. We just play, and not worry about what happens next. We know we've got nothing to lose."
Finland, the only nation to win a medal in each of the past two Olympics and four World Championships, rebounded from a 6-0 loss to the United States in its opener to win two straight.
Finland's bronze performance in Nagano was overshadowed by the Czech Republic's heroics and disappointing outings by the United States and Canada. Given the absence of star Saku Koivu, who's battling cancer, not much was expected of the current team -- particularly after the blowout loss Friday.
But Finland's patient, defense-oriented style produced strong games against Belarus and Russia. Finland also got strong goaltending from Jani Hurme, who stopped 25 shots and held on against a Russian rally in the final minutes.
"I think we wanted to win this more than those guys," Selanne said. "They're pretty scary with that lineup, so it was good they didn't show up tonight."
"We've played three games here, and only in one of them have we played at the level we should be playing at all the time," said Russian coach Slava Fetisov, who held a team meeting immediately after the game. "For some reason [in the second period], we just stopped skating, and Finland felt it right away. I don't know why it happened."
Finland's victory unexpectedly shuffled the quarterfinal possibilities for Wednesday. Finland now will face the loser of Canada's match with the Czech Republic later Monday, while the winner will get the unenviable task of meeting a powerful Russian team stinging from an upset loss.
The Russians' vaunted attack was in excellent form in the first period, and they took the lead on Bure's first goal of the tournament. Hurme, back in net after sitting out the win over Belarus, made several excellent saves to keep his team in it until the Finns' attack, which got just two shots in the first period, picked up.
Finland tied it up midway through the second period when Selanne creeped behind the Russian defense and got a long pass from Ossi Vaananen. Breaking in alone on Khabibulin, Selanne threw a shoulder fake and scored on a backhand.
Eloranta got the go-ahead goal late in the second period, and Lehtinen added insurance with a power-play goal in the third. The Russians' frustration manifested itself midway through the third when Alexei Kovalev punched Jarkko Ruutu in the face with a gloved hand.
Bure had a breakaway with 6 1/2 minutes to play, but defenseman Kimmo Timonen caught the speedy Russian from behind and disturbed his stick. Bure nearly scored on a rebound with 90 seconds left, but Hurme made an acrobatic sliding pad save.
"All the time after the first period, they were skating better than us," Bure said. "But I said even before the games that there will be six or even eight strong teams."