Today in Sochi, the end result, a Canadian victory, was expected, even by opposing team fans. One Finnish fan stated before the game that “Unless there’s another Miracle, Canada will win.” What was not expected, however, was the trouble Canada would have to earn that victory, needing extra time to finally get the win. Thanks to a strong defensive effort and some excellent hockey, including two goals by Drew Doughty, Canada beat Finland 2-1 in overtime in this contest in Sochi .
The Finnish fan had reason to be grim about the team’s chances. Ravaged by injuries, Finland’s top four centers were out for this game, causing havoc among the Finnish lines and leaving the team struggling to find any chemistry and offense. The Finnish played Canada well all game, never missing an opportunity to finish a check or force a turnovers off a Canadian stick. Finland also did an excellent job of blocking shots, making the job of Finnish goaltender, Tuuka Rask, a relatively easy one.
However, the game started off poorly for Rask and it almost caused his team to be down multiple goals early. Twice during the first period, Team Canada appeared to have scored a goal, only to have them waved off after an official review. The first was an odd sequence, where an initial shot bounced off the glass and onto the Finnish net. While Rask, unaware of where the puck landed, hunted for the puck carrier, Canadian forward Rick Nash took his stick and hit the puck off the net, off the back of Rask and into the net. Initially called a goal on the ice, the review determined that the puck hit Nash’s stick while it was above the crossbar, thus nullifying the goal. Minutes later, Canada came close to scoring again, when Rask over-committed to an initial chance, allowing Jonathan Toews to wrap the puck around the net. The puck skittered along the goal line before Rask smothered it with his body. Again, the play was reviewed, but since the puck never crossed the goal line, it was again determined to be no goal.
Canada would finally get on the scoreboard after Jarkko Immonen took a penalty for interfering with a Canadian player. Immonen was a late call-up replacement for one of the four injured centers for Finland. On the ensuing power play, defenseman Drew Doughty would take the pass from Rick Nash and fire the puck from the circles past Tukka Rask. It was a shot that Rask probably should stopped, as there was no player impairing his vision. Team Canada’s captain, Sidney Crosby, also assisted on the Doughty goal, his first point in the tournament. His lack of production thus far in has been a big reason why Canada has struggled to get wins against teams they should beat easily. Those earlier Sochi wins, like the one against Finland, have been achieved mostly thanks to Team Canada’s defensemen like Doughty, who are providing both stalwart defensive plays and great offensive hockey.
The second period was another evenly matched affair, with Canada attempting to increase their lead and Finland keeping the deficit to only one. That deficit was erased with two minutes left in the period, as physical forward, Tuomo Ruutu, deflected a shot from the point past Canadian goaltender, Carey Price. Ruutu, who laid a massive hit on Crosby early in the game to set the tone, has been Finland’s most dangerous forward throughout the tournament. Though originally set as a wing, he can also play center and has filled that role on occasion as Finland dealt with their numerous injuries.
The score would remain deadlocked in the third period, causing the game to go to an unexpected overtime period. Canada, despite outshooting Finland 25 to 14, was unable to solve the Finnish defense and Tuuka Rask. Jamie Benn had a golden chance to end the game with less than a minute remaining in the game, as a burst of speed through the offensive zone got him past the Finnish defender. But the defender recovered and quickly snuffed out the chance, slamming Benn into the boards behind the net.
Doughty would eventually end the game in overtime, by scoring yet another goal that Rask probably would have liked back. Though Rask was in good position to stop the shot by the Canadian defenseman, the puck just squeezed between the legs of the Finnish goaltender, ending the game and preventing an upset. The game winner was Doughty’s fourth goal in three games and the sixth scored by a Canadian defense in the tournament thus far.
Since the game went into overtime, both teams received byes into the quarterfinals, joining Sweden and the United States, who had earned byes earlier in the day. This means that both teams will not play in the playoff qualification round, allowing a few extra days of rest. The teams will thank the hockey gods for these days, as Finland hopes to heal their injured roster and Canada hopes to find a way to beat teams going forward in Sochi that does not rely solely on Doughty and the rest of Team Canada’s defense.
By Jonathan Gardner