-- Finland eliminated Russia from the
Olympic men's hockey tournament with
a 3-1 victory Wednesday, putting a stunning end to the Russians' enormous expectations at home.
Selanne and Mikael Granlund each had a goal and an assist for the steady Finns, who overcame an early deficit and silenced the Bolshoy Ice Dome with two goals in the first period.
"Russia had chances but could never put the puck in the net, frustrated by some great saves," said CBS News' Steve Futterman from Sochi. "As the final seconds ticked off, you could the emotional strain on the faces of the Russian team."Despite its roster of high-priced offensive stars, Russia couldn't score in the final 52 minutes after Ilya Kovalchuk's early power-play goal.
Finland will face top-seeded Sweden in the semifinals on Friday.
Russia has failed to win a medal in three straight Olympics since 2002, and even home-ice advantage couldn't end the embarrassing drought.
A quarterfinal exit is excruciating
for the proud Russian team, which
pressed relentlessly and fruitlessly in the third period after falling behind
by two goals.
The Russians then gathered at center ice amid more jeers and whistles than cheers, mournfully raising their sticks to salute the fans before skating off the ice at an arena built to herald Russia's return to hockey dominance.
CBSSports.com hockey writer Brian Stubits says this result may not be as big as an upset as it appears.
"Russia is the host at these Games and was labeled a pre-Olympic co-favorite to win gold. In the truest sense of the word, an entire nation is certainly upset. But Finland is consistently excellent in international tournaments while Russia hasn't been," Stubits writes. "Finland has had Russia's numbers in recent years."
Alex Ovechkin, the reigning NHL MVP and one of the Sochi Games' most public faces, failed to score another goal for Russia after scoring on his first shot just 1:17 into Russia's opener against Slovenia. Malkin, the Russians' other former NHL MVP, also didn't score a goal after the first four minutes of the opener.According to NHL.com's Cörey Masisak, Ovechkin had this to say after the game:
Alex Ovechkin: "It sucks. What else can I say?"— Cörey Masisak (@cmasisak22) February 19, 2014
Ovechkin, Malkin and Datsyuk all hailed Russia's home Olympics as the most important tournament of their careers, but they'll likely have only bitter memories.
Russia didn't play horribly in Sochi, winning three of its five games, but lost a painful eight-round shootout to the U.S. team before falling behind early and failing to catch up against steady Finland.
Semyon Varlamov allowed all three
goals on 15 shots against the Finns before getting pulled for Sergei Bobrovsky
during the second period.
Russian fans realized the importance and peril of this game, filling the Olympic park early in the afternoon with cheers, chants and Russian flags. The Bolshoy crowd began chanting "Ro-ssi-ya!" even before pregame warm-ups, waving hundreds of flags and banners emblazoned with hometowns and slogans.
The tone was uncommonly intense from the opening faceoff. After Granlund took an early holding penalty in the offensive zone, captain Pavel Datsyuk fed Kovalchuk for a hard shot over Rask's shoulder. Kovalchuk popped the water bottle off the top of Finland's net and celebrated with a two-footed leap into the air amid ecstatic cheers.
But moments later, Aaltonen made a beautiful move along the goal line, putting a shot under Varlamov's glove arm for the KHL forward's first goal in Sochi.
Bolshoy got quiet, and it became positively funeral-like late in the period when Granlund moved up the boards, broke past two defensemen and fed Selanne for the Finn captain's 22nd goal in a record-tying six trips to the Olympics. The 43-year-old Selanne extended his own record for the oldest player to score in an Olympics.
Finland scored again on the power play early in the second, with Granlund collecting Selanne's rebound and sliding in a backhand from a sharp angle. Granlund, who turns 22 in a week, hadn't been born when Selanne played in his first Olympics in 1992.
Russia put together an impressive offensive stretch after Bobrovsky came on, with Rask forced to make a big save on Alexander Semin's breakaway. The Russians continued to press in the third period, outshooting Finland 14-5, but Rask made big saves when his teammates didn't block Russia's shots.
Dozens of fans lingered in their seats long after the team left the ice, disconsolately folding their flags and staring at the ice. A few Finnish fans near center ice even went up to a group of Russian fans for a hug.