Before the puck even dropped on the game, it was known at least one Minnesota Wild player would return to St. Paul with an Olympic medal. Unfortunately for the citizens of the State of Hockey, alternate captains Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were unable to rally the Americans after falling behind 2-0 early in the second period, and Finland would go on to win by the score of 5-0.
Team USA started out the game outshooting the Finns in the first period by a total of 12-8. It appeared Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane would have a chance to put USA on the board first with a penalty shot. However, a shot off the outside of the net left the game tied 0-0 going into the first intermission.
Finland got the scoring going early in the second period, as Teemu Selanne and Jussi Jokinen would score just 11 seconds apart less than 1:40 into the period. A great neutral zone effort by Granlund led to Selanne’s beautiful backhand goal to put the Finns up 1-0 in what ended up being the game-winning goal. Kane would again get a penalty shot at the 6:24 mark of the period, this time rifling a shot off the crossbar. The period would end with the Finns leading in shots on goal in the period with a 12-10 advantage and up 2-0.
The Americans took to the ice in the third period with reckless abandon, taking several penalties which led to power play goals by Selanne and Pittsburgh Penguins rookie defenseman Olli Maatta after Juuso Hietanen made it 3-0 with a goal just as Kane came out of the penalty box. Selanne’s second goal of the game came off a typical unearthly feed by Granlund that the Finnish Flash would put past Granlund’s Wild teammates Parise and Suter, and Los Angeles Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, into the back of the net.
Finland outshot the Americans 29-27, and goaltender Tuukka Rask–who missed the semifinal matchup with the Swedes due to the flu–stood tall in net to help give his country the 5-0 shutout win. His tremendous performance in the tournament can only make the Finnish brass wonder if their semifinal matchup with the Swedes might have gone differently had Rask been healthy.
Wow. What a story for the Finns. Missing so many big guys down the middle of the lineup in Saku and Mikko Koivu, Valtteri Filppula and Aleksander Barkov, Minnesota Wild sophomore second line center Mikael Granlund had some big shoes to fill. To say he’s done so in such beautiful fashion is an understatement. Playing alongside Teemu Selanne, Granlund terrorized defensemen and goaltenders throughout the tournament, scoring three goals and four assists for seven points, a plus-3 rating and an amazing 20 shots in six games.
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter finish the tournament with a goal and three assists, respectively. It’s certainly been a disappointing run for these two, especially considering their fourth place finish comes 34 years to the day Suter’s father, Bob, and the underdog Americans ousted the heavily favored Soviets 4-3 in what’s become known as the “Miracle on Ice”. Hopefully, Parise and Suter can channel their frustration and determination into leading the Wild forward in the final push for the playoffs and potentially a deep run to boot.
The gold medal game between Canada and Sweden will be played tomorrow morning at 6:00 AM Central Time on NBC.