Finland defeats Slovakia to capture hockey bronze

2/28/2010 12:54:07 AM
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Vancouver - It was looking like a disappointing end to a disappointing tournament for Team Finland.

Fresh off their humiliating loss to the United States in Friday's semifinal, the Finns went to their dressing room after two periods in Saturday's bronze medal game down 3-1 to Slovakia.

But instead of folding their tents as they appeared to do early against the Americans in Friday's 6-1 loss, the Finns came roaring back with four unanswered goals in the final period to salvage a medal in the men's hockey tournament by a 5-3 score.

The comeback began when Niklas Hagman deflected a shot by Kimmo Timonen while the Finns were on a power play early in the third period.

Then, goals exactly two minutes apart, both by Olli Jokinen, put the Finns ahead to stay at 4-3 with 11:19 to play. The second of those occurred on a breakaway where he slid the puck between the legs of Slovak goaltender Jaroslav Halak.

The Finns then held off a furious last-ditch attempt by the Slovaks who came up just short for the second night in a row, following their 3-2 loss to Canada. An empty net goal by Valtteri Filppula put an end to Slovakia's hopes.

The Finnish comeback takes some of the sting out of their semifinal loss to the United States in which they fell behind 6-0 after one period.

It also robbed Slovakia of its first ever Olympic medal in men's hockey.

After beating the Russians and Swedes and nearly knocking off Team Canada, Slovakia looked good for two periods as it overcame an early 1-0 deficit with three unanswered goals, two on the power play and one shorthanded.

Marian Hossa and Marian Gaborik both scored with the man advantage before Hossa set up Pavol Demitra on a shorthanded two-on-one to make it 3-1 with just over a minute to play in the second period.

Saturday night marked the last Olympic hurrah for many of the players that have helped take Slovakia from the B and C pools of international hockey during the early 1990s after the breakup of Czechoslavakia. Jozef Stumpel, Miroslav Satan, Zigmund Palffy and Demitra are all over age 35 and another clump of players on the team who are pushing that age.

The question now is when the Slovaks might be able to reach the Olympic podium as the buzz in the hockey world suggests that next generation of players is void of elite talent.

The Slovaks opened the bronze medal game apparently feeding off the emotion of their final period against Canada the night before.

They out-shot the Finns 11-5 in the first period but Sami Salo scored for Finland late in the first period on the power play.

Slovakia winning a hockey medal would have been a significant accomplishment for a nation that had to watch their former countrymen, the Czechs, win Gold at Nagano, just five years after the breakup of Czechoslavakia.

Peltonen and Jokinen (Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)


(Photo: Harry How/Getty Images)
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