Team Finland captain Teemu Selanne, 43, participated in his first Olympic tournament in 1992. Mikael Granlund was born three days after the games. Today, they assisted on each other’s goals and sizzled in a stunning upset of Vladimir Putin’s Russians.
Ilya Kovalchuk would put the Russians on the board first, scoring on a power play howitzer from the high slot to put Russia up 1-0 7:51 into the first period on a hooking penalty to Granlund. The Finns would respond with a slick goal by Juhamatti Aaltonen near the halfway mark of the period due to a hard-working play by the goal scorer off the faceoff. That would make it an even tie at one apiece.
With less than two and a half minutes left in the period, some serious hustle by Granlund and Selanne would result in essentially a two-on-zero break into the Russian offensive zone and a trademark legendary pass by Granlund led to the go-ahead goal by the Finnish Flash. The first period would end with Finland leading 2-1, though the Russians outshot the Finns 13-9.
Russia would further cushion their lead in shots-on-goal with an 11-8 second period effort. However, it was once again the Granlund show as an impressive puck possession display on the man advantage led to the Minnesota Wild young gun’s third goal of the tournament to make it 3-1 Finland. That would be the end of the night for Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, who made 12 saves on 15 shots for Russia.
From there, it was a goaltender’s duel between Finland’s Tuukka Rask and Russia’s Sergei Bobrovsky. There weren’t many chances for the Russians as Rask’s goaltending, Finland’s solid two-way defensive play and the buzzing duo of Granlund and Selanne only added to the frustrations of a team expected to win gold on home ice. The Finns, who played so calm and fluidly the entire game, put added pressure on late, forcing Bobrovsky to make a series of spectacular saves. In turn, the Bruins’ Rask was forced to stand tall in the final minute as Russia attempted to rally with an extra attacker, but it was all over. Finland would secure the victory 3-1, and Rask stopped 37 of 38 shots, earning at least a moment to savor an unlikely victory before focusing his attention on the Swedes and the semifinals.
What an incredible accomplishment for Finland. Missing top forwards Saku and Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula and Aleksander Barkov, the Finns have still been able to survive and overcome the odds. It wasn’t surprising they beat Austria and Norway, it was surprising they came so close to beating Canada, and it is certainly unbelievable to see them move past the Russians into the semifinals. That said, it’s not that Finland isn’t a good team, but to do so well minus several key players against a team expected to win the whole tournament is an outstanding achievement. For Wild fans, it’s even sweeter knowing “Granlund the Great” is making a huge impact and is a big reason his team is moving forward.
Up next is Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Team USA as they take on Jaromir Jagr and the Czech Republic on USA Network at 11:00 AM Central Time.