Finland captain Teemu Selanne celebrates along with teammates after their… (Jonathan Nackstrang / AFP…)
SOCHI, Russia — While Teemu Selanne pumped his fists in joy, members of the U.S. men's hockey team hung their heads in embarrassment.
Selanne and his Finnish teammates lingered to pose for photographs with their Olympic bronze medals as the U.S. players hurried out of the Bolshoy Ice Dome on Saturday after their 5-0 loss and fourth-place finish, fleeing a nightmare of their own making.
One day after the Finns' semifinal loss to Sweden — a few hours before the U.S. was defeated by Canada — Selanne responded the right way to Olympic-sized disappointment.
Speaking at a players-only meeting before Saturday's game — his last for his national team — Selanne urged teammates not to squander this chance at a medal. Try to take what was left out there, he said, because this chance might not come again.
FRAMEWORK: Best images from Sochi
"He calmed us down," teammate Lauri Korpikoski said, and then Selanne inspired them with a relentless effort.
"I think we wanted to win this medal more than they did," veteran Finnish center Olli Jokinen said.
That was obvious.
"If there's one guy on the planet that I feel happy for [despite] losing that game, I think it's him," said U.S. defenseman Cam Fowler, Selanne's Ducks teammate. "One of the best players to ever live and one of the greatest guys I've known."
Selanne, who has struggled with the Ducks this season and has gotten reduced playing time, scored four goals here and won his third bronze medal to go with the silver he won in 2006. He became the oldest player to win an Olympic hockey medal at 43 years, 234 days old.
"What a great ending," he said over and over after scoring twice against the U.S., and it was.
Finland won its fourth medal in five Olympics since NHL players have been allowed to represent their countries. The U.S., favored to compete for gold, failed to score in its last two games and was a shadow of the aggressive group that defeated Russia and filled the net through the quarterfinals.
Kings winger Dustin Brown, part of the U.S. leadership group, played only one shift in the second period after being on the ice for goals scored by Selanne and Jussi Jokinen 11 seconds apart early in the period. He played two shifts in the third period and 4:48 overall. "I'm not happy about it," Brown said, "but it's the coach's job to figure out the best chance to win….I'm a player, he's a coach. That's how it works."
Stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter was minus-2 defensively. Patrick Kane missed two penalty shots, shooting wide to the right of Tuukka Rask in the first period when it was 0-0, and hitting the post in the second period while Finland led, 2-0. Kane had no goals in the tournament.
Coach Dan Bylsma said his team was emotionally spent after its 1-0 semifinal loss to Canada, but the players' passive performance the last two games hinted at a larger problem.
"We're going home empty-handed with some pretty high expectations and high hopes coming into here a couple weeks ago," U.S. captain Zach Parise said. "To leave on this note is pretty ugly."
Maybe this says it better:
"We didn't show up. We let our country down. That's it," forward Max Pacioretty said.
Selanne was set up both times Saturday by Mikael Granlund, who was a few days from being born when Selanne competed in the 1992 Olympics. Selanne racked up a career-record 43 points in 37 games over six Olympics.
"Twenty-six years ago I played my first national team game. I've been wearing this jersey with a lot of pride and love," he said. "And winning this last game like this was dream come true."
It was a nightmare for Kings and U.S. goaltender Jonathan Quick, who wasn't at fault. "I feel bad for Quickie. He really put us on his back all tournament," Fowler said. "We didn't do a good enough job in front of him today."
While the Americans analyze what went wrong, Selanne hopes his Sochi success will right his Ducks season.
"I try to use this as a confidence boost. But you need the tools. You need ice time," he said. "We have a great team in Anaheim and my role has been smaller and smaller, which is kind of disappointing, but I'm not complaining at all. I'm just trying to do what I can control and play well when I have the chance."
Selanne got as happy an ending as could be expected. The U.S. players got no medal and plenty of regrets.