Olli Jokinen scores 2 as Finland rallies from 2-goal deficit to beat Slovakia 5-3 for bronze

By Larry Lage, AP
Sunday, February 28, 2010

Finns rally to beat Slovakia 5-3 for bronze medal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Finland refused to be finished.

Miikka Kiprusoff bounced back from an awful performance with a solid one, Olli Jokinen scored two of the Finns’ three third-period goals and Finland held on to beat Slovakia 5-3 on Saturday night in the men’s hockey bronze-medal game.

“We believed that we could come back, and it was a huge comeback,” Teemu Selanne said. “After 23 years playing for the national team, after five Olympics, this is a dream come true.

“If somebody were to tell us before the tournament we would win the bronze medal, we would have taken that.”

The Finns became the first to win three medals since the NHL let its players compete at the 1998 Winter Games and the only team to be a repeat medalist, following up the silver it won four years ago. Kiprusoff was solid in the net with 19 saves, regaining his confidence just one day after he was pulled when the U.S. scored four goals on seven shots in just 10 minutes.

Slovakia’s Richard Zednik had a chance to tie the game with 1:25 remaining but couldn’t control a bouncing puck in what was the team’s best opportunity to force overtime. Valtteri Filppula sealed the victory with 10 seconds left on an empty-net goal.

Slovakia, which led 3-1 after two periods, blew a shot to win its first medal since forming their federation in 1993 following the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

As the Finns swarmed Kiprusoff to congratulate him, the Slovaks slumped to the ice in pained exhaustion. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak leaned disconsolately against the boards, Marian Gaborik slammed his helmet down soon after getting off the ice, and Andrej Sekera broke his stick over a railing.

“Being fourth, I feel like the biggest loser,” Pavol Demitra said. “Being fourth is worse than being eighth, for me.”

While the Slovaks were losing their cool, the Finns, bronze medals hanging from their necks, posed for a picture at center ice as Finland President Tarja Halonen wildly waved the country’s blue-and-white flag from a suite.

The Slovaks looked like they would be celebrating at the end of the night when Marian Hossa scored a go-ahead goal early in the second period, hopping on his skates and pumping his gloves in the air, and Demitra scored late in the period after assisting on the first two goals.

Their mood changed after the two-goal lead turned into a one-goal deficit in a 3:35 span of the third period.

Niklas Hagman started the comeback with a power-play goal 5:06 into the period, then Jokinen scored the tying and game-winning goals in a 2-minute span. Halak struggled during the pivotal stretch and finished with 29 saves.

Slovakia simply couldn’t recover, and this loss won’t soon be forgotten.

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