HELENE ELLIOTT

Home isn't safe for Russia's hockey team

Hosts are knocked out of the tournament in 3-1 loss to Finland, which will face Sweden in semifinals.

SOCHI, Russia — The Sochi Olympics will continue without the Russian hockey team, which was stifled by Finland in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss Wednesday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome. Russia's elimination probably will dampen the Olympic passion of fans who saw this as a chance to recapture excellence not seen since the era of the old Soviet Union's Big Red Machine.

Linemates Teemu Selanne, 43, and Mikael Granlund, 21, each scored and assisted on the other's goal as Finland advanced to a semifinal matchup Friday against Sweden, which Selanne called "our lovely rival." Goaltender Tuukka Rask of the NHL's Boston Bruins stopped 37 shots to frustrate Russia, whose vaunted offense never materialized.

"It's hard to win if you do not score," said Russia's Pavel Datsyuk, dazzling despite playing on a bad leg.

FRAMEWORK: Best images from Sochi

Alexander Ovechkin, who leads the NHL with 40 goals, had one goal in five games here. So did Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin.

"In many ways I feel sorry for Ovie and his Russian teammates," Selanne said. "They had a big dream to win the gold medal in their home tournament. But hockey is a funny thing."

Russia Coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said his players did their best and took the blame himself.

"Something happened. Something didn't work out. They did their best. I can't say anything bad about them," he said through a translator. "I can only apologize to the fans for the results."

Sweden Coach Par Marts, speaking after his team's 5-0 quarterfinal victory over Slovenia, said he expected Russia to beat Finland. That idea wasn't shared by the Finns.

"We were expecting to win. I don't know if anyone else was expecting us to win," veteran center Olli Jokinen said. "We didn't have anything else in our mind the last two days but to win this game and we didn't care who we played."

A blistering power-play shot by Ilya Kovalchuk put Russia ahead at 7:51 of the first period, but Finland matched that when Juhamatti Aaltonen darted around Nikita Nikitin and got a shot between the arm and body of goalie Semyon Varlamov at 9:18. Finland pulled ahead at 17:38, after Granlund outskated Kings and Russia defenseman Slava Voynov and passed the puck to Selanne, who slid it under Varlamov.

Granlund provided the final margin by pouncing on a loose puck after a shot by career Olympic scoring leader Selanne during a power play. Sergei Bobrovsky replaced Varlamov after that, but it made no difference except for allowing Bobrovsky to share the misery. "I got empty inside," he said.

Canada also advanced to the semifinal round with a closer than expected 2-1 win over Latvia. Shea Weber scored the go-ahead goal with about seven minutes to play. Carey Price made 15 saves for Canada, which had a 57-16 edge in shots on goal.

Canada will play the U.S. in the other semifinal.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

 

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