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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."

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STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 x - NYR 76 48 21 7 231 179 103
2 x - MTL 77 47 22 8 203 174 102
3 x - TBL 78 47 24 7 250 204 101
4 PIT 76 42 23 11 210 190 95
5 NYI 77 45 27 5 235 215 95
6 WSH 77 42 25 10 227 190 94
7 DET 76 40 23 13 221 208 93
8 BOS 77 39 25 13 204 198 91
9 OTT 76 38 26 12 220 204 88
10 FLA 77 35 27 15 192 210 85
11 CBJ 76 37 35 4 210 234 78
12 PHI 76 30 29 17 198 219 77
13 NJD 77 31 33 13 170 197 75
14 CAR 76 28 37 11 176 208 67
15 TOR 77 29 42 6 201 245 64
16 BUF 76 21 47 8 148 255 50

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Huberdeau 74 13 36 9 49
N. Bjugstad 72 24 19 -7 43
J. Jokinen 76 8 33 -4 41
B. Boyes 74 13 23 10 36
A. Ekblad 76 11 24 10 35
J. Hayes 67 18 14 -6 32
A. Barkov 66 14 17 -3 31
B. Campbell 77 3 23 2 26
B. Pirri 44 21 2 6 23
D. Bolland 48 5 16 1 21
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
R. Luongo 26 18 12 .921 2.35
A. Montoya 5 7 2 .888 3.08
 
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