Finland beats Austria 8-4 in Olympic hockey
SOCHI, Russia (AP) Finland had more than enough offensive talent to overcome its slow start against Austria, even with Teemu Selanne back in the dressing room.
Jarkko Immonen and Mikael Granlund scored two goals apiece as Finland opened preliminary-round Olympic play with an 8-4 victory over Austria on Thursday.
Jussi Jokinen and Petri Kontiola each had a goal and an assist for the Finns, who put 52 shots on beleaguered Austria goalie Bernhard Starkbaum despite playing the final two periods without Selanne, their captain and the leading scorer in Olympic history.
The 43-year-old `Finnish Flash' had an assist in the first period of his record-equaling sixth Olympics before sitting out with an upper-body injury. Selanne should be fine for the Finns' next game, team spokesman Janne Lahti said.
''He's an old man, so he needs some rest, more than the other guys,'' Kontiola said.
Sami Lepisto and Olli Maatta also scored for Finland, which has never lost to Austria at the Olympics. Granlund had a three-point game and defenseman Sami Vatanen had three assists in their Olympic debuts.
Selanne got just eight shifts before apparently having problems with his neck or shoulders. Finland's trainers massaged Selanne on the bench late in the first period, and he didn't return from the first break.
''Maybe he got the bad pillow!'' said Sami Vatanen, Selanne's teammate with the Anaheim Ducks.
Even with Selanne ailing, Finland took control with two goals in 8 seconds during the final minute of the first before taking a four-goal lead in the second.
''It's tough to see him get injured, but he'll be OK,'' Olli Jokinen said of Selanne. ''He's a big part of this team, and he's our leader. It's never easy when you lose a guy like him.''
The Finns also survived a shaky Olympic debut from Tuukka Rask, the vaunted Boston Bruins goalie who yielded four goals on just 20 shots.
''The first goal, everybody was caught sleeping there,'' Rask said. ''After that second goal, everybody kind of woke up and got back to playing again.''
Michael Grabner had three goals in his Olympic debut for Austria. The New York Islanders forward scored 36 seconds into the first period, and Austria had two early leads before Finland took control.
''In case we didn't know what we were up against, we got a reality check,'' Austrian forward Thomas Vanek said. ''You've got to play a certain way, and I think we didn't do it. Our goalie needs to be our best player, and we need to help him more.''
Finland is the most consistently successful Olympic nation of the NHL era while winning medals in four of the last five Olympics overall. The Finns have a solid shot at medals again despite placement in Canada's preliminary-round group, and an eight-goal performance in their opener will help their cause.
Austria, which qualified for its first Olympics since 2002, surprised the Finns in the opening minute when Grabner converted a cross-ice pass from Michael Raffl.
Granlund got Finland's first goal on a play set up by Selanne, who took Vatanen's outlet pass and fed Granlund while screening Starkbaum.
Austria went back ahead when Thomas Hundertpfund's shot from behind the net went off Maatta's skate in front and beat Rask, but Lepisto equalized 2:04 later. Maatta put the Finns ahead with a vicious slap shot from the blue line with 35 seconds left in the first period - and Immonen scored 8 seconds later.
Six Austrians are back from their Salt Lake City team along with the Olympic debuts of Grabner and Vanek, his Islanders teammate. Grabner added two goals in the third period for his hat trick.
''I like the big ice, and I just tried to get into open space for my teammates,'' Grabner said. ''Against a good team like Finland, it's tough to come back.''