SOCHI, Russia – Many wondered what Team USA would have left in Saturday’s bronze medal game against Finland, after being humbled by arch rival Canada in the Sochi Olympic men’s hockey semifinal on the previous night.
Nothing. They had nothing left.
No goals. No defense, outside of a frequently abandoned Jonathan Quick keeping them in the game early. No heart. No pride to leave Sochi with a medal after falling short of gold.
Performances ranged from underwhelming to putrid. Patrick Kane skated hard, but failed to convert two penalty shots and took two bad penalties. Ryan Suter, the team’s top defenseman, was victimized on two goals. Phil Kessel, their most dynamic offensive player in the tournament, didn’t have a shot on goal.
Dan Bylsma’s team led the Olympics with 20 goals in their first four games. They didn’t score one in their final two, with medals on the line.
They came for gold; they left with shame.
Their lack of effort and cohesion was apparent from the early stages of the game.
Finland nearly scored in the first period with a flurry of five chances on Jonathan Quick – the best one, from Olli Jokinen, hit Ryan Kesler in the chest as he slid over and protected an open net.
At 13:40 of the first, Kane had his first penalty shot attempt. Finnish defenseman Kimmo Timonen pushed a broken stick blade at Kesler as he carried the puck, giving the U.S. the penalty shot. IIHF rules dictate that a player on the ice had to take it; Kane was given the opportunity.
Kane skated in, had Rask beaten but couldn’t tuck the puck between the goalie and the post, keeping the game scoreless.
Finland broke through just 2:37 into the second period thanks to their leading scorers, Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund.
Ryan Suter had the puck in the neutral zone when his pocket was picked by Granlund. He sent the puck to Selanne, who took a wide approach on the wing. Ryan McDonagh gave him a shooting lane, and his backhander beat Jonathan Quick for the 1-0 lead.
Finland struck again 11 seconds later, with Suter again victimized. Within an instant of the faceoff, Jori Lehtra had a 2-on-1 down low in the U.S. zone. Suter couldn’t defend the pass to Jussi Jokinen nor the ensuing shot on Quick. Jokinen buried it and the Americans, putting them in a two-goal hole.
Kane earned his second penalty shot at 6:24 of the second period as a slash by Leo Komarov broke his stick on a breakaway.
Again, Kane had Rask beaten. Again, he couldn’t convert, as the puck clanged off the top right corner of the goal cage.
The deflected puck flew back toward Kane, who is 1-for-11 on the season in the shootout for the Blackhawks. He caught it with this glove and disgustingly tossed it away.
It was 2-0 after two periods. Suter’s ice time was cut by around 4-and-a-half minutes from one period to the next.
It would only get worse in the third period. With Kane in the box after tripping Olli Jokinen, Jusso Hietanen blasted a shot from the point that went through a leaping screen by Komarov and behind Quick for the 3-0 lead just 6:10 into the period
Nearly three minutes later, it was Selanne again, with T.J. Oshie in the penalty box for interference. Four American defenders left one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of hockey alone in front of Quick. He converted his second goal of the game for the 4-0 lead.
It was 5-0 on another power play, as Lehtera passed the puck to a wide-open Olli Maatta on the wing. He buried it against a helpless Quick.
Tuukka Rask made 27 saves for the shutout, after missing his team’s semifinal loss to Sweden with the flu.
He felt healthy enough to play. It was the Americans’ effort that was sickening.