By Bob Condotta, The Seattle Times
VANCOUVER, British Columbia. — The United States did its part to set up a potential rematch with Canada for the gold medal Friday afternoon.
And it did so with shocking suddenness and ease.
An American team expecting a tough semifinal matchup with Finland instead got its biggest breather of the Winter Olympic men’s hockey tournament, scoring six goals in a span of 10:42 of the first period and then coasting to a 6-1 victory at Canada Hockey Place.
The U.S. now awaits the winner of the Canada-Slovakia game Friday night for Sunday’s 3:15 p.m. gold-medal game. Canadian fans here have been hoping for a rematch since the Americans beat the host country 5-3 Sunday.
It will be the first time the U.S. has played for the gold medal since 2002, when it lost to Canada 5-2 in Salt Lake City.
Before that, the last time the U.S. had played for the gold was the 1980 Miracle on Ice team that won it all.
The United States has not trailed in the tournament and has outscored its five foes 22-6.
Finland didn’t score until just 5:14 remained and after the U.S. had replaced starting goalie Ryan Miller with Tim Thomas.
The Americans used their speed to set up scoring chances early, and made them pay off with some help from some shoddy Finnish goaltending.
Ryan Malone of the Tampa Bay Lightning got it rolling, scoring just 2:04 into the game into an unattended net after Finnish goalie Miikka Kiprusoff left the crease to try to clear a puck.
Instead, it went right to Malone, who nailed a slap shot to start the rout. It was a bad day for Kiprusoff, who allowed three more goals in a span of less than four minutes midway through the period before apparently pulling himself out of the game.
Kiprusoff plays for the Calgary Flames and is sixth in the NHL in save percentage. He entered this game first in the tournament, having allowed just four goals on 75 shots.
But he gave up four goals in seven shots against the United States before departing.
The second and third U.S. goals each came on power plays, giving the United States a 3-0 lead just 8:36 in.
Goal No. 4 came at the 10:08 mark, unassisted by Patrick Kane. Kiprusoff then left the ice, replaced by Niklas Backstrom.
Kane also scored the fifth goal for the U.S. with 12:31 gone. Kane, who has 25 goals for Chicago this season but had just one in the tournament before busting out for two against Finland.
The Americans then scored again 15 seconds later, this one from Paul Stastny.
The United States didn’t score again, playing passive the last two periods and the teams ended tied in shots for the game at 25, though the U.S. led 13-4 in the first.
Finland plays for the bronze medal Saturday against the Canada-Slovakia loser.
Scoring By Period
|FIN||0 –||0 –||1 –||1|
|USA||6 –||0 –||0 –||6|
First Period – Scoring: 1, USA, Malone (unassisted), 2:04; 2, USA, Parise (Stastny, Rafalski), 6:22 (pp); 3, USA, E. Johnson (Pavelski, Malone), 8:36 (pp); 4, USA, Kane (unassisted), 10:08; 5, USA, Kane (Rafalski), 12:31; 6, USA, Stastny (Langenbrunner, Parise), 12:46. Penalties: FIN, Niskala (interference), 5:59; FIN, Lydman (boarding), 7:02; USA, Rafalski (kneeing), 19:48.
Second Period – Scoring: None. Penalties: FIN, J. Ruutu (roughing), 7:52; FIN, J. Ruutu (misconduct), 7:52.
Third Period – Scoring: 7, FIN, Miettinen (Lepisto), 14:46 (pp). Penalties: FIN, Backstrom (interference), 0:22; USA, Malone (high-sticking), 2:43; FIN, Lepisto (high-sticking), 8:29; USA, E. Johnson (interference), 13:37.
Shots by Period
|FIN, Kiprusoff, 10:08||7-3||x-x||x-x||7-3|
|FIN, Backstrom, 49:52||6-4||9-9||3-3||18-16|
|USA, Miller, 48:29||4-4||7-7||7-7||18-18|
|USA, Thomas, 11:31||x-x||x-x||7-6||7-6|
Power Play:FIN 1-3; USA 2-5
Penalties: FIN 6-20; USA 3-6
Officials: Referees-Daniel O’Halloran (CAN), Marcus Vinnerborg (SWE); Linesmen-Petr Blumel (CZE), Shane Heyer (USA)