SOCHI, Russia — While Teemu Selanne pumped his fists in joy, members of the U.S. men’s hockey team hung their heads in embarrassment.
Selanne and his Finnish teammates lingered to pose for photographs with their Olympic bronze medals as the U.S. players hurried out of the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Saturday after their 5-0 loss and fourth-place finish, fleeing a nightmare of their own making.
One day after the Finns’ semifinal loss to Sweden — a few hours before the U.S. was defeated by Canada — Selanne responded the right way to Olympic-sized disappointment.
Speaking at a players-only meeting before Saturday’s game — his last for his national team — Selanne urged teammates not to squander this chance at a medal. Try to take what was left out there, he said, because this chance might not come again.
“He calmed us down,” teammate Lauri Korpikoski said, and then Selanne inspired them with a relentless effort.
“I think we wanted to win this medal more than they did,” veteran Finnish center Olli Jokinen said.
That was obvious.
“If there’s one guy on the planet that I feel happy for (despite) losing that game, I think it’s him,” said U.S. defenseman Cam Fowler, Selanne’s Ducks teammate. “One of the best players to ever live and one of the greatest guys I’ve known.”
Selanne, who has struggled with the Ducks this season and has gotten reduced playing time, scored four goals here and won his third bronze medal to go with the silver he won in 2006. He became the oldest player to win an Olympic hockey medal at 43 years, 234 days old.
“What a great ending,” he said over and over after scoring twice against the U.S., and it was.
Finland won its fourth medal in five Olympics since NHL players have been allowed to represent their countries. The U.S., favored to compete for gold, failed to score in its last two games and was a shadow of the aggressive group that defeated Russia and filled the net through the quarterfinals.
Kings winger Dustin Brown, part of the U.S. leadership group, played only one shift in the second period after being on the ice for goals scored by Selanne and Jussi Jokinen 11 seconds apart early in the period. He played two shifts in the third period and 4:48 overall. “I’m not happy about it,” Brown said, “but it’s the coach’s job to figure out the best chance to win.... I’m a player, he’s a coach. That’s how it works.”
Stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter was minus-2 defensively. Patrick Kane missed two penalty shots, shooting wide to the right of Tuukka Rask in the first period when it was 0-0, and hitting the post in the second period while Finland led, 2-0. Kane had no goals in the tournament.
Coach Dan Bylsma said his team was emotionally spent after its 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada, but the players’ passive performance the last two games hinted at a larger problem.
“We’re going home empty-handed with some pretty high expectations and high hopes coming into here a couple weeks ago,” U.S. captain Zach Parise said. “To leave on this note is pretty ugly.”
Maybe this says it better:
“We didn’t show up. We let our country down. That’s it,” forward Max Pacioretty said.
Selanne was set up both times Saturday by Mikael Granlund, who was a few days from being born when Selanne competed in the 1992 Olympics. Selanne racked up a career-record 43 points in 37 games over six Olympics.
“Twenty-six years ago I played my first national team game. I’ve been wearing this jersey with a lot of pride and love,” he said. “And winning this last game like this was dream come true.”
It was a nightmare for Kings and U.S. goaltender Jonathan Quick, who wasn’t at fault. “I feel bad for Quickie. He really put us on his back all tournament,” Fowler said. “We didn’t do a good enough job in front of him today.”
While the Americans analyze what went wrong, Selanne hopes his Sochi success will right his Ducks season.
“I try to use this as a confidence boost. But you need the tools. You need ice time,” he said. “We have a great team in Anaheim and my role has been smaller and smaller, which is kind of disappointing, but I’m not complaining at all. I’m just trying to do what I can control and play well when I have the chance.”
Selanne got as happy an ending as could be expected. The U.S. players got no medal and plenty of regrets.
CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING: Bjoergen is now the most decorated female Winter Olympian in history with 10 total medals and six gold, including three in Sochi and three from Vancouver. Her career total puts her one ahead of Russian cross-country skier Lyubov Egorova, who had six golds and three silvers. Two other women — Stafania Belmondo of Italy and Soviet skier Raisa Smetanina — also have 10 medals, but fewer golds. Therese Johaug took silver in the 30K race, while Kristin Stoermer Steira completed the Norwegian sweep by winning bronze.
SPEEDSKATING: The Dutch men’s team of Sven Kramer, Jan Blokhuijsen and Koen Verweij set an Olympic record of 3 minutes, 37.71 seconds in the team pursuit. The Netherlands also held the old record of 3:39.95, set in Vancouver four years ago. South Korea took the silver and Poland the bronze. In the women’s race, the Netherlands trio of Ireen Wust, Marrit Leenstra and Jorien ter Mors also set an Olympic record of 2:58.05. Poland took silver and Russia bronze. Wust now has won five medals in Sochi, more than any other athlete — two golds and three silvers.
ALPINE SKIING: Matt’s victory in the men’s slalom makes him the oldest Alpine champion in Olympic history. Matt, who turns 35 in April, surpasses now-retired Norwegian great Kjetil Andre Aamodt as the oldest skier to win an Alpine race.
BIATHLON: Russian anchor Anton Shipulin beat Germany’s Simon Schempp on the final lap to give the host nation its first biathlon gold of the Sochi Games. The 4x7.5-kilometer relay was the last biathlon competition at the games. Defending champion Norway led for most of the race but dropped to fourth after anchor Emil Hegle Svendsen missed three targets in his final shooting. Germany got the silver and Austria the bronze.
SNOWBOARDING: The American-born Wild, who became a Russian citizen in 2011 after marrying Russian snowboarder Alena Zavarzina, won gold in parallel giant slalom earlier this week. Wild and another adopted Russian, former South Korean short track speedskater Viktor Ahn, have won five of Russia’s 11 gold medals in Sochi. Zan Kosir of Slovenia took silver behind Wild, and Benjamin Karl of Austria won bronze. In the women’s parallel slalom, Dujmovits edged Anke Karstens of Germany at the finish. Amelie Kober of Germany won bronze.