February 19, 2014

Rask, Finland knock out host Russians

By Jesse Connolly


Tuukka Rask denies Alex Semin during Finland's win over the host Russians in Sochi Wednesday. (Getty Images)
 

The Russians are now at three Olympics and counting without a medal, following a 3-1 loss to Finland Wednesday that eliminated the host nation from the men's tournament.

Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask shined between the pipes for Finland, stopping 37 of the 38 shots he faced, including all 14 in an uneven comeback attempt by Russia in the third period. 

The Russians took a 1-0 lead 7:51 into the contest, with Ilya Kovalchuk cashing in on the power play. The Finns responded just 1:27 later, tying the game on a tally by Juhamatti Aaltonen. Legendary forward Teemu Selanne scored what proved to be the game-winner with 2:22 left in the opening frame, and Wild center Mikael Granlund made it 3-1 early in the second.

Finland did a tremendous job of limiting the opposition's scoring chances throughout the remainder of the game. When Russia did break through, Rask was there to keep them from making it a one-goal game.

Strong goaltending and defense have been -- and will continue to be -- a necessity for Finland, as they're without a bevy of offensively-gifted centers, including Mikko Koivu and Valtteri Filppula.

"You lose key guys and then you have to battle even more," Rask told NBC Sports' Pierre McGuire after the win. "That's been our case this tournament."

Rask got off to a rough start in the tournament, allowing four goals on 20 shots in an 8-4 win over Austria. He rebounded with a strong showing in a 2-1 overtime loss to Canada, and lifted his country into the semifinals by beating the high-flying Russians.

"I couldn't yell or speak," Rask said of his immediate reaction. "I made that save right before, so I was gassed. The guys were just screaming."

Rask will now take on fellow Bruin Loui Eriksson and the Swedes, with the winner moving on to the gold medal game.

NOTES

Eriksson had a breakout game on Wednesday with a goal and an assist in Sweden's 5-0 victory over Slovenia. ... David Krejci scored a power-play goal for the Czech Republic, leading them to a 4-3 win over Slovakia Tuesday. The loss for the Slovaks makes their captain, Zdeno Chara, the first Bruin eliminated from the Winter Games. Krejci and the Czechs will face the U.S. at noon Wednesday in the quarterfinals. ... Patrice Bergeron and Canada will square off with Latvia at the same time. The B's center has two assists through three tournament games.

Twitter: @JesseNEHJ
Email: jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com