Finland-Slovakia Preview

BY foxsports • February 27, 2010

Finland and Slovakia have enjoyed impressive runs during the Olympics. Only one, however, will leave with a medal when they meet for the bronze on Saturday night.

The Finns' hopes of returning to the championship game ended in jaw-dropping fashion Friday with a 6-1 semifinal loss to the United States.

Miikka Kiprusoff allowed four goals on the first seven shots he faced over the first 10:08. He had stopped 71 of 75 Olympic shots over his previous three games, giving him the top save percentage in the tournament.

"If you let in four goals in the first period, (being replaced is) the right call to make," said Kiprusoff, who is sixth in the NHL with a .925 save percentage for the Calgary Flames.

Niklas Backstrom, the starter for the Minnesota Wild, relieved Kiprusoff and gave up goals 15 seconds apart to make it 6-0 with 7:14 to play in the first period.

"I haven't been a part of that kind of game. The game is over after six minutes," said Finland's Teemu Selanne. "It was a long day and very disappointing."

Antti Miettinen, who plays with Backstrom in Minnesota, scored late in the game to help Finland avoid being blanked.

Selanne, a star with the Anaheim Ducks, will be wrapping up his fifth and last Olympics. After becoming the all-time leading scorer in the modern era of the games while in Vancouver, the 39-year-old hopes to go out with his third medal since NHL players were allowed to participate starting in 1998.

"There's bronze on the line," Selanne told the International Ice Hockey Federation's official Web site. "It's all about bouncing back and trying to take what's left."

Finland, which lost 3-2 to Nordic rival Sweden in the championship game four years ago in Turin, has two silvers and two bronzes in men's hockey.

"A bronze medal from this kind of tournament is huge. We have to remind ourselves it's not over yet," Selanne added.

Though coming off a nail-biting 3-2 loss to Canada in Friday's other semifinal, Slovakia has already assured itself of its highest finish in Olympic play since the dissolution of Czechoslovakia in 1993.

The Slovaks' showing in British Columbia has included upset wins over Russia - a gold medal favorite coming in - and Sweden, a traditional power on the international stage. They nearly made it three straight Friday as Lubomir Visnovsky of the Edmonton Oilers and the Los Angeles Kings' Michal Handzus scored in the third period against Canada's Roberto Luongo to make it a one-goal game.

With Montreal Canadiens goaltender Jaroslav Halak pulled late for an extra attacker, Pavol Demitra was unable to beat his Vancouver Canucks teammate with what would have been the tying goal with about five seconds to play.

"There were so many guys in front, I thought maybe it hit a stick, maybe he made a good save," Demitra said. Luongo said he tipped it with his glove.

Afterward, Luongo and Demitra chatted briefly during postgame handshakes and according to the goalie, Demitra "said a few words I can't repeat."

Marian Hossa is tied with Demitra for the team lead with five assists and seven points. The Chicago Blackhawks standout believes Slovakia will bounce back and end up on the podium for the first time.

"We still have a great chance (Saturday)," Hossa said. "We just have to regroup because today was a really tough game. It would be a dream come true if we got third place."