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Finland Moves To 2-0 In Group B

Finland and Canada to meet on Sunday in final preliminary game with automatic bid on the line.

Friday, 02.14.2014 / 2:50 PM ET / News
By Dan Rosen  - NHL.com Senior Writer
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Finland Moves To 2-0 In Group B
Finland and Canada to meet on Sunday in final preliminary game with automatic bid on the line.

SOCHI -- After two games that were nothing more than tune-ups against two of the bottom-tier teams in the tournament, Finland will be able to test its medal chops against one of the big boys Sunday.

The Finns beat Norway 6-1 on Friday at Shayba Arena, setting up a Sunday night showdown with Canada, with the winner clinching first place in Group B and securing an automatic berth into the quarterfinals in the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

The loser can also receive an automatic berth into the quarterfinals or get a better draw in the qualification round, but it could depend on goal differential.

After two games, the Finns are plus-9; the Canadians are plus-8.

"These first two games we were expecting to win, and I was pretty happy that we didn't have to grind all 60 minutes [Friday night]," Finland captain Teemu Selanne said. "We got goals right away and could kind of cruise around the rest of the game, but Sunday is Canada, and it's going to be a good challenge for our team.

"They have four all-star lines, so it's not going to be easy. We all know those guys. We play against them every day back home. It's going to be hard, but on the same hand it's going to be a challenge. We need a tough game now. It's a big ice surface, so hopefully that's going to be an advantage for us."

The game Sunday (noon ET, CBC, USA) will also be the first in the Olympics between Finland and Canada since 2006, when the Finns handed the Canadians a 2-0 loss in group play. Finland went on to capture the silver medal in Turin by beating the United States and Russia before losing to Sweden in the gold-medal game. Canada finished sixth.

"We are the underdogs, absolutely," Finland coach Erkka Westerlund said.

Selanne's goal 5:46 into the first period not only gave Finland a 1-0 lead, it was also historic. The 43-year-old Anaheim Ducks forward became the oldest player to score a goal in an Olympic game, and he now has 21 Olympic goals.

"Having that record makes me feel very old, but I'm just happy that the older guys can still rock," Selanne, who is appearing in his sixth Olympics, said.

Finland's younger guys can too. Defenseman Olli Maatta, who had a goal and two assists Friday to give him four points in two games at his first Olympics, is tied for the tournament lead in points with Canada's Patrick Marleau and Finnish teammate Sami Vatanen.

"For sure it's something I never really thought of, but I don't really take pride in my scoring ability," Maatta said. "I take pride in my defensive game and making the easy pass for the forwards."

He did that on both of Lauri Korpikoski's goals Friday night. Olli Jokinen chipped in with a goal and an assist. Tuomo Ruutu and goalie Kari Lehtonen each had two assists.

Lehtonen, who was the backup Thursday to Tuukka Rask in Finland's 8-4 win against Austria, made 20 saves.

Westerlund would not say which goalie will start against Canada. Antti Niemi, who hasn't played in the tournament, is also an option.

"I know who the goalie is going to be, but you don't," Westerlund said, smiling.

The Finns had a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission as Korpikoski scored on a scramble in front of the crease 65 seconds after Selanne's goal, and Jori Lehtera shot a knuckler past Norway goalie Lars Haugen with 2:39 left in the period

Haugen was benched in favor of Lars Volden to start the second period, but Volden gave up goals to Korpikoski and Jokinen separated by 3:23 in the middle of the period.

Norway got one back 61 seconds into the third period on a one-timer from Per-Age Skroder, but Maatta capped the scoring with 2:19 remaining.

The only problem for the Finns is that Florida Panthers rookie Aleksander Barkov had to leave the game early in the third period with a lower-body injury. Westerlund was not sure of the severity of the injury when he was asked about it after the game.

Barkov had been playing center on Finland's top line between Selanne and Mikael Granlund, but with or without him the Finns have one day to prepare for their biggest test of the tournament so far.

They tuned up against Austria and Norway. It's time to find out how strong the engine is against Canada.

"They are probably favored to win this tournament, but we like our chances," Finnish forward Jussi Jokinen said. "We are ready for that challenge on Sunday."

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - NYR 82 53 22 7 252 192 113
2 y - MTL 82 50 22 10 221 189 110
3 x - TBL 82 50 24 8 262 211 108
4 x - WSH 82 45 26 11 242 203 101
5 x - NYI 82 47 28 7 252 230 101
6 x - DET 82 43 25 14 235 221 100
7 x - OTT 82 43 26 13 238 215 99
8 x - PIT 82 43 27 12 221 210 98
9 BOS 82 41 27 14 213 211 96
10 FLA 82 38 29 15 206 223 91
11 CBJ 82 42 35 5 236 250 89
12 PHI 82 33 31 18 215 234 84
13 NJD 82 32 36 14 181 216 78
14 CAR 82 30 41 11 188 226 71
15 TOR 82 30 44 8 211 262 68
16 BUF 82 23 51 8 161 274 54

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 79 15 39 10 54
J. Jokinen 81 8 36 -2 44
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
A. Ekblad 81 12 27 12 39
B. Boyes 78 14 24 11 38
A. Barkov 71 16 20 -4 36
J. Hayes 72 19 16 -4 35
B. Campbell 82 3 24 4 27
B. Pirri 49 22 2 6 24
D. Bolland 53 6 17 4 23
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 28 19 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 6 7 2 .892 3.01
 
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