By Frank Pingue
SOCHI, Russia (Reuters) - Finland's Teemu Selanne capped his international ice hockey career in style, scoring twice while dealing the United States a humiliating 5-0 loss to capture the bronze medal at the Sochi Games on Saturday.
Selanne's goal 87 seconds into the second period opened the floodgates for a Finnish team that overcame a semi-final loss on Saturday to win a medal for the third straight Olympics, following a silver in 2006 and bronze in 2010.
"I have been carrying this jersey with a lot of love and pride and winning this last game like this was a dream come true," Selanne told reporters.
"It's unbelievable. I played my first national team game 26 years ago and if somebody would've told me I was going to win four Olympic medals then, it would've been hard to believe. It is overwhelming for sure."
The defeat was one final insult for a U.S. team that won the silver medal at the 2010 Vancouver Games and arrived in Sochi with hopes of living up their billing as one of the gold medal favorites.
But after a crushing 1-0 loss to the rival Canadians in the later of Friday's two semi-final games, the Americans ran out of gas against a Finnish team that seemed to have more left in the tank as the game went on.
The Americans were flying high in Sochi and everything was going according to script as they reached the semis undefeated and as the highest scoring team of the 12-nation tournament. But that meant little after losing to Canada.
"It was pretty demoralizing," U.S. captain Zach Parise told reporters.
"We had to turn around and realize that there was actually a bronze medal on the line which is still a pretty big deal. But those two efforts were just not acceptable at this point."
Both teams had several scoring chances during the opening period but Finnish goalie Tuukka Rask and U.S. counterpart Jonathan Quick turned aside everything they saw.
Patrick Kane was awarded a penalty shot in the first period after a Finnish defenseman fired part of a broken stick into his path but the puck got away from the forward just as he was about to put a shot on net.
Finland took the Americans by surprise when they made a furious start to the second period to grab a two-goal lead after scoring twice in the first 98 seconds of the frame.
Selanne, who at 43 is the oldest player in the tournament and the Olympics' all-time leading scorer, stormed down the left wing before firing a shot inside the near post.
Jussi Jokinen added another 11 seconds later when he took a pass from Jori Lehtera that he fired into the U.S. net before Quick could get across. Rask made 27 saves for the shutout.
"Whoever gets the first goal in hockey nowadays, that team has a really strong chance to win," said Jokinen. "Being able to get the second goal right after that got us the momentum."
Kane got another penalty shot in the second period after a Finnish player broke the forward's stick in half while trying to stop a scoring opportunity, but his attempt rang off the right post.
"The first one kind of rolled on me, I thought I had him," said Kane. "The second one, I made a good shot, I just hit the post. I had some chances, just didn't really capitalize on any of them. A really frustrating night."
After that, it was all Finland.
Juuso Hietanen added to the Finnish lead six minutes into the third period with a blast from the point that made its way through a maze of players before finding the U.S. net.
Selanne got his second of the game three minutes later on the powerplay while defenseman Olli Maatta also tallied with the man advantage.
Losing to a Finnish team that has captured six medals from the last eight Olympic Games and also arrived in Sochi as one of the favorites, was no comfort to the disappointed U.S. squad.
"I've been saying it all along, we felt like we had a group who could contend for a gold medal, then we had an opportunity to compete for a bronze medal and, before you know it, we're going home empty-handed. The only feeling I have right now is disappointment," said American defenseman Cam Fowler.
"If there's one guy on the planet that I feel happy for, after losing that game, I think it's (Selanne). He's one of the best players to ever live and one of the greatest guys I've ever known. He deserves it."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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