The Ducks’ right wing, a six-time Olympian at 43 and the oldest player ever to score a goal in the men’s Olympic hockey tournament, lost his shot at the elusive gold medal when he and Finland lost to Sweden, 2-1, in the first of two semifinal games Friday at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Sweden will advance to the championship game on Sunday against the winner of the Canada-U.S. semifinal, to be played later Friday.
Selanne, who has said he will retire after this NHL season, has an Olympic silver medal from 2006 and bronze medals from 1998 and 2010. He can add to his collection on Saturday, when Finland faces the loser of the U.S.-Canada contest in the bronze-medal game.
Finland had recorded a significant victory in the quarterfinals, when it defeated host Russia, but it couldn’t capitalize on five power plays against Sweden, including a 96-second five-on-three advantage in the first period.
“It is tough,” Selanne said. “I’m more disappointed that we couldn’t play our best game in the tournament. More disappointed in that than the result. Our goal was to play our best game and whatever happens, you can always live with that. I felt we couldn’t do it. I don’t know if the Russian game just took a little extra energy from us. I felt we were one step behind many times.
“It’s hard to swallow but you’ve also got to give credit to them. They played well. And we had our chances. In the first period the power play would have changed the whole thing. And the third period I think we played our best period, and that’s a good sign. But at this level, you’ve got to play 60 minutes and we couldn’t do it.”
Finland actually scored first, on a bad-angle goal by Olli Jokinen that squeezed through Henrik Lundqvist’s pads at 6:17 of the second period, but Sweden tied it at 11:39 against Kari Lehtonen—a late replacement for the ailing Tuukka Rask—and took the lead for good on a power-play blast by Erik Karlsson at 16:26.
Finland pressed in the third period, but Sweden held firm.
“Finland, I thought played a great tournament. And tonight they played an excellent game,” Swedish forward Daniel Sedin said. “It was tough to get scoring chances. Our power play came through again tonight and it’s going to be key if we want to get the gold medal.”
Sedin said Sweden’s preparation would be basically the same whether if it faces Canada or the U.S.
“No difference. They both have excellent rosters on the paper and I don’t think it matters who much who we play,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough match for us. But I think if we play like we did today or even a little better, I think we have a good chance.”
He also said the U.S. “is probably the best team so far. They seem to just play well. Canada has a lot of pressure on them from back home but I think they’re getting better and better too. I think either one is going to be tough.”
Lundqvist, a member of Sweden’s triumphant 2006 Olympic team, also said it didn’t make a difference to Sweden whether it will face Canada or the U.S. on Sunday.
“I hope we saved our best for last. Canada or the U.S., they’re a skilled team,” he said.
But before that, he wanted a few seconds to savor Friday’s success.
“What a feeling, that last five, 10 seconds. That’s the best feeling. That’s the feeling you’re looking for as an athlete,” said Lundqvist, who plays for the NHL’s New York Rangers.
“You work extremely hard to get somewhere and when you realize you’re going to get another shot at this, that’s just incredible.”
If Finland can bounce back and win on Saturday, Selanne would become the oldest medal winner in men’s Olympic hockey at 43 years, 234 days old. The current record holder is Igor Larionov, who was 41 years and 83 days old when he won a bronze medal with Russia at Salt Lake City in 2002.
It will be tough for Finland to get motivated for that game, but Selanne hopes he and his teammates can go out on a high note.
“It’s disappointing and now recovery time is going to be short,” he said, “but same hand, who we’re going to face, they’re going to have even shorter recovery time.
“Hopefully we can pull it out. It’s going to be another chance for us. Getting a medal in this tournament is something you can always be proud of.”