SOCHI, Russia -- Before the Olympic hockey tournament began, Russian superstar Alexander Ovechkin joked that if his country were to prevail at the sport it once dominated internationally, “it means gold only costs $50 billion,” the price tag for the Sochi Games.
Apparently, $50 billion doesn’t buy what it used to.
Despite assembling a powerfully talented lineup with immense scoring potential, Team Russia was eliminated from the hockey tournament Wednesday when it fell to Finland, 3-1, in a quarterfinal game at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Hockey had been the focus of the Games for many Russian fans, who were hoping home-ice advantage would lead to the team’s first gold medal since 1988. However, the Russian team never unleashed its scoring potential, as Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin each scored only one goal and a shaky defense proved the team’s undoing.
At the same time, Finland was the better team on Wednesday, overcoming an early 1-0 deficit on goals by Juhumatti Aaltonen, Ducks right wing Teemu Selanne and standout Minnesota Wild forward Mikael Granlund. Finland goalie Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins stopped 37 shots.
Selanne and Granlund assisted on each other’s goals, displaying a remarkable affinity despite their considerable age gap. Selanne, 43, made his Olympic debut at the 1992 Albertville Games -- a few weeks before Granlund was born.
Finland will face traditional rival Sweden in one semifinal on Friday. The other semifinal will match the winners of Wednesday’s late quarterfinal games, Canada vs. Latvia and the U.S. vs. the Czech Republic.
Russia scored first Wednesday, on a power play it had gained when Granlund was sent off for holding. Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings set it up with a pass from the right circle to Ilya Kovalchuk in the high slot, and Kovalchuk’s blistering shot got past Rask at 7:51.
Finland responded quickly. Petri Kontiola won a faceoff in Russia’s end and got the puck to Juhamatti Aaltonen, who faked defenseman Nikita Nikitin out of his skates and drove to the net before taking a shot that got between Varlamov’s left arm and body at 9:18.
Selanne gave Finland the lead with help from his 21-year-old linemate. Granlund used his strength and speed to get around Russia and Kings defenseman Slava Voynov before passing the puck to Selanne, who nudged it under a sliding Varlamov for his second goal of the tournament. That extended his own career Olympic scoring record to 40 points over six Winter Games.
Selanne also extended his own record for being the oldest player to score a goal in the Olympic hockey tournament, 43 years, 261 days.
A penalty that was painful for Russia in more ways than one led to Finland’s third goal and silenced the crowd.
Russia defensemen Alexei Emelin upended Finnish forward Lauri Korpikoski in front of the net, and as Korpikoski was falling, his stick struck Emelin in the mouth. Emelin dripped blood onto the ice before he went for treatment, and then to the penalty box.
Finland capitalized on the man advantage at 5:37, controlling the puck and working it down low, where Selanne took a shot. He didn’t get all of it but he got enough for it to bounce in front, where Granlund pounced on it and tucked it inside the post.
After that goal, Russia Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov pulled starting goalie Semyon Varlamov and replaced him with Sergei Bobrovsky.
Rask stopped Syomin on a breakaway with a nifty sliding stop, and Finland went on to kill a penalty against Aaltonen in the second period.
Russia pressed frantically in the third period, urged on by the hometown crowd, but the Finns continued to block shots and clamp down defensively.