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Russians’ red glare

Finland knocks out home team in men’s hockey quarterfinal match

Latvia’s Kristaps Sotnieks reaches over teammate Kristers Gudlevskis to grab puck and keep it from crossing goal line. (Associated Press)
Latvia’s Kristaps Sotnieks reaches over teammate Kristers Gudlevskis to grab puck and keep it from crossing goal line. (Associated Press)
Associated Press

SOCHI, Russia – The home team is out of the Olympic men’s hockey tournament.

Russia lost 3-1 to Finland in the quarterfinals on Wednesday, putting an abrupt end to the gold-medal designs of Alex Ovechkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and a talented roster that had been expected to return the Russians to their previous Olympic heights.

Teemu Selanne and Mikael Granlund each had a goal and an assist for the Finns, who took a first-period lead and never let it go while the Bolshoy Ice Dome crowd watched disconsolately.

Finland’s strong play in front of 37-save goalie Tuukka Rask was too much for the Russians, who raised their sticks at center ice after the game to whistles and jeers. The result wasn’t shocking, given Russia’s inconsistencies and top-heavy roster, but many fans held out hope the Russians would figure it out before elimination.

Instead, they’ll rank among the biggest disappointments in Sochi for failing even to make it to the medal rounds. Russian players haven’t won Olympic gold in 22 years, and they haven’t won any medals at all in the last three Olympics.

“Inside, I’m absolutely empty,” Russia captain Pavel Datsyuk said through a translator.

Finland gets a chance to win its fourth medal in five Olympics in the semifinals against Sweden, which advanced with a 5-0 thrashing of underdog Slovenia. Goalie Henrik Lundqvist posted his second shutout of the games, but the Swedes needed four goals in the third period to hold off the Olympic rookie Slovenes, who surprised the hockey world by winning two games in Sochi.

Canada and the United States also booked places in the semifinals with entertaining quarterfinal victories.

The Canadians were pushed by tiny Latvia and its 21-year-old goalie, Kristers Gudlevskis, who made 55 saves. But defenseman Shea Weber scored the tiebreaking goal on a big slap shot with 6:54 to play, and the defending champions returned to the semifinals for the third time in four Olympics with a 2-1 victory.

They’ll be joined by the Americans, who have been arguably the most impressive team in Sochi during their unbeaten run. The U.S. got goals from five players in a 5-2 victory over the Czech Republic, cruising into the semifinals with another exhibition of thrilling hockey.

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