Siochi, Russia —
This Russian loss was the furthest thing from a Miracle on Ice. Juhamatti Aaltonen scored the first goal for Finland, the most consistent Olympic team in the last two decades with medals in four of the past five games.
Russian fans realized the importance and peril of this game, filling the Olympic Park early in the afternoon with cheers, chants and Russian flags. The Bolshoy crowd began chanting “Ro-ssi-ya!” even before pregame warm-ups, waving hundreds of flags and banners emblazoned with hometowns and slogans.
The tone was uncommonly intense from the opening faceoff. After Granlund took an early holding penalty, Datsyuk fed Kovalchuk for a hard shot over Rask’s shoulder. Kovalchuk popped the water bottle off the top of Finland’s net and celebrated with a two-footed leap into the air amid ecstatic cheers.
But moments later, Aaltonen made a beautiful move along the goal line, putting a shot under Varlamov’s glove arm for the KHL forward’s first goal in Sochi.
Bolshoy got quiet, and it became positively funeral-like late in the period when Granlund outskated Slava Voynov up the boards, broke past two defensemen and fed Selanne for the Finland captain’s Olympic-record 22nd goal.
Finland scored again on the power play early in the second, with Granlund collecting Selanne’s rebound and sliding in a backhand from a sharp angle for the final goal.
Dozens of fans lingered in their seats long after their team left, disconsolately folding their flags and staring at the ice. A few Finnish fans near center ice even went up to a group of Russian fans for a hug.
“It’s a catastrophe,” said Sergey Kazakov, a 58-year-old businessman from Moscow. “We’ve been preparing for the home games for seven years, and what? Just a group of stars, but no team and no result.”