Teemu Selanne and his Finnish teammates looked on in disbelief as Team USA almost did the unthinkable.
Finland, up 2-0 in the dying minutes of the quarter-finals at the world hockey championship, surrendered back-to-back goals in a 37-second span and allowed last night’s tournament finale at the Metro Centre to head to overtime.
“We were like, ‘We can’t believe it. This can’t be true,’” the Anaheim Ducks winger said. “But we were dominating the game, and that’s why I knew we had a chance to win.”
Finland, which outshot the United States 33-24, quickly recovered in a back-and-forth overtime, getting the game winner from Washington Capitals defenceman Sami Lepisto on a slapshot from the point 3:59 into the 10-minute frame.
“God, it was good to see that puck go in,” said Selanne, a 37-year-old who is pondering retirement and is more than likely headed to the Hockey Hall of Fame not long after he hangs up the skates.
Tuomo Ruutu and Janne Niskala scored in the first and second periods to stake Finland to the two-goal lead.
Selanne said there was just “one bad minute” in the whole game.
“I don’t think we even made any mistakes,” he said. “If they were controlling the game, we’d probably think, ‘I don’t know if we’re gonna come back from this.’ But we didn’t quit.”
Finland plays Russia in tomorrow’s semifinals in Quebec City.
Phil Kessel and Drew Stafford scored for the U.S. with 4:16 and 3:39 remaining in the game, and Robert Esche — who entered the tournament as the third-stringer for the squad — was player of the game with a 30-save performance.
The Americans, a young team with an average age of less than 25, were assembled with the purpose of building a team for the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.
Given that, U.S. head coach John Tortorella was happy to see his troops battle back late in the game. Dustin Brown had a golden chance to win it right before Lepisto’s goal.
“You’re looking at 2010, and this is a good core here,” Tortorella said. “This is why we are so young. You’ve got to live through some of these things, these tough times. The Olympics are what we’re looking at, but you never want to lose.”