SOCHI, Russia — The Russians dutifully shook the Finns’ hands and then skated to the center of a rink built to showcase their return to Olympic hockey dominance. When they raised their sticks in a mournful salute, they got more whistles than cheers from their devastated fans.
Alex Ovechkin, captain Pavel Datsyuk and their teammates had nursed dreams about this week for several years – all their lives, really.
They were all dashed in 60 frustrating minutes against Finland.
Russia crashed out of the Olympics in the quarterfinals Wednesday with a 3-1 loss, extending a historic hockey nation’s gold-medal drought past 22 years and putting a damper on the final days of the Sochi Games.
“Inside, I’m absolutely empty,” Datsyuk said through a translator.
Teemu Selanne scored an early goal and Tuukka Rask made 37 saves as Finland crushed the Russians’ plans to win hockey gold in front of their own fans for the first time. Russian and Soviet teams have won eight gold medals in hockey, but none since the Unified Team’s
victory in 1992.
Ovechkin, Datsyuk and Evgeni Malkin all hailed Russia's home Olympics as the most important tournament of their careers, and President Vladimir Putin led the chorus of Russians hoping for a golden moment in Sochi. They’ll likely have only bitter memories after losses to the United States and Finland, which left Russia out of the medals for the third consecutive games.
“I can only apologize to the fans for the results,” Russia coach Zinetula Bilyaletdinov said. “It was unfortunate for us. Expectations were quite different. I can only say words of apology.”
CANADA 2, LATVIA 1
Shea Weber scored a tiebreaking power-play goal with 6:54 to play, and Canada survived an enormous scare from Latvia to advance to the semifinals.
Canada advanced to a semifinal meeting with the United States on Friday.
SWEDEN 5, SLOVENIA 0
Henrik Lundqvist made 19 saves for his second shutout of the Sochi Games and Carl Hagelin scored twice, helping Sweden rout Slovenia to advance into the semifinals.
The 2006 Olympic champions will face Finland on Friday for a spot in the gold-medal game.