By Josh Ferguson
The United States embarrassed Finland with six goals in the first period on their way to a 6-1 win and a berth in the gold medal game.
Miikka Kiprusoff made an ultimatum earlier this season that unless he was going to be the starter, he wouldn’t compete for the Finnish national team at the Olympics. He was named the starter, but he certainly forgot to hold up his end of the bargain to compete in this semifinal matchup at Canada Hockey Place.
Kiprusoff is awarded the gaffe-of-the-tournament for coming out of his goal to play a puck two minutes into the match. With Phil Kessel on his horse to fetch the loose puck, ‘Kipper’ felt the heat and his pass intended for teammate Sami Lepisto landed right on the stick of Ryan Malone, who had an open net to take an early 1-0 lead for the Americans.
After Zach Parise made it a two-goal lead on a cross-crease pass from Paul Stastny on the man advantage - thanks to another Finnish turnover - Erik Johnson made it 3-0 with another power play marker 8:36 into the opening frame.
When you thought the period had reached a point where the Americans might slow down – or the Finns would decide to start skating – Team USA was just heating up. Patrick Kane broke over the Finnish blueline and fired a wrist shot that Kiprusoff stopped, but the Finnish netminder mishandled the rebound. Kane found the loose puck and scored on a backhander past Kiprusoff, who didn’t get off his rear end to start the game, let alone after the initial Kane shot.
By allowing four goals on just seven shots, Kiprusoff was pulled from the Finnish goal in favor of Niklas Backstrom. With a cold goalie getting thrown to the wolves, Team USA kept pumping the Finnish net and collected two more goals from Kane and Stastny on the first four shots they fired at Backstrom.
With a 6-0 lead going into the intermission, the Americans had two more goals than the Finns had shots in the opening frame. Although there was still 40 minutes for the Finns to come back, there was zero chance of that happening with Ryan Miller in net and the game was all but over after the first 20 minutes.
Miller finished the game by stopping all 18 shots he faced before head coach Ron Wilson replaced him with Tim Thomas for the final 11:31 of the game. Thomas stopped six shots, but was burned for the Finns’ lone goal of the game.
Finland will try to redeem itself in the bronze medal game on Saturday.
Team USA comes out of this beating with no bruises and qualifies for their first gold medal game since 2002. The Americans will be riding high with a perfect 5-0 record where they have outscored their opponents 22-6.