TORONTO – It had been 29 years.
Nearly three decades.
That’s the last time Finland’s national hockey team went winless at an international senior men’s hockey tournament, back in 1987, at the Canada Cup. Until now, that is.
“It’s disappointing,” said Teuvo Teravainen, who was five years away from his first breath the last time this happened. “Feels like it’s over so quickly.”
Well, sadly for Finland, that’s because it is.
After a 3-0 loss to Russia Thursday afternoon, the Finns are finished after the round robin here at the World Cup, with an 0-3 record. Its two other losses came against North America and Sweden.
Even before the puck dropped Thursday, the Finns were out of this tournament, so you could assume this game meant nothing. You’d be wrong. There’s a big rivalry between these two nations, and Finland wanted to leave on a high note.
“I thought we started really well,” said Aleksander Barkov, who had one shot in the losing effort.
But the problem Thursday against Russia was the same one they’ve had all tournament long: The Finns couldn’t score. They managed just one goal in three games here.
“It was great defending by the opposite team, but of course if you don’t score you can’t win the games,” said Barkov. “And I think that’s the biggest thing in hockey—you have to score.”
The Florida Panthers forward wasn’t using his team’s inexperience as an excuse for their performance, though.
“Of course we have a lot of young guys on the team but it shouldn’t be a problem because we have a North American young team here, they’re all young guns, young guys, and they’re playing well so it doesn’t matter if you’re young or not,” he said.
Goalie Tuukka Rask thinks their opener against North America, a 4-1 loss on Sunday, set the stage for a tough rest of the tournament.
As Barkov put it, “it should have been like 8-1 or something like that.”
“We just couldn’t handle the young guys,” said Rask, who made 20 saves on Thursday. “But the positive thing was how we responded after that against Sweden.”
True, Finland outplayed Sweden earlier this week. But again, they couldn’t score.
They had that same intensity to start off this one against Russia, but the game changed gears in the second when Alex Ovechkin threaded a perfect pass through a crowd, which Vladimir Tarasenko tapped in.
Seconds earlier, Finland’s Mikael Granlund had a great look on a one-timer, which he rang off the post.
An inch to the left and this game could’ve had a much different outcome. (And a win for Finland meant North America would advance to the semi-final instead of Russia, and play Canada.)
“You want to find the net, and when you don’t score and then Russia scores, it gets in your head right away,” said Teravainen, who had one shot on goal Thursday. “You need to get that ugly one and get the momentum.”
Instead, the momentum was Russia’s, and less than two minutes after the Tarasenko goal, Ivan Telegin got his first of the tournament when he found himself relatively alone in front, skated around the top of the crease and jammed one past Rask by the far post.
Then 3:39 into the third, Evgeni Malkin beat Rask short-side, and this one was all but over.
The Ru! Ssi! A! chants were full force, then.
“Sometimes you just need that one bounce to go in and that kind of opens things up, and we never got that,” Rask said.
And so the country that won silver at the world championships earlier this year and bronze at the last Olympics is done at the World Cup of Hockey.
“I think we created a lot of chances,” Teravainen said. “It just didn’t bounce at this tournament for us.”