SOCHI, Russia — The Russians dutifully shook the Finns’ hands and then skated to the center of a rink built to showcase their return to hockey dominance. When they raised their sticks in a mournful salute, they got more whistles than cheers from their devastated fans.
They were all dashed in 60 frustrating minutes.
Russia crashed out of the Olympics in the quarterfinals Wednesday with a 3-1 loss to Finland, extending a historic hockey nation’s gold-medal drought past 22 years and putting an enormous 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 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. They’ll likely have only bitter memories after losses to the United States and Finland, which left Russia out of the medals entirely for the third straight games.
“To be honest, I’m a little bit sad, also, for them,” said Selanne, a six-time Olympian. “Obviously, they had a big dream to win the gold medal here, and then it doesn’t work, so it’s kind of disappointing in many ways, because that would be a great story. But again, it’s proving to the hockey world that you never know.”
A quarterfinal exit is excruciating for the proud Russian team, which pressed relentlessly and fruitlessly in the scoreless third period. After the final buzzer, several Russian players stood on the ice with their hands on their knees, while Malkin dropped to one knee.
Ovechkin, the reigning NHL MVP and one of the Sochi Games’ most public faces, failed to score another goal for Russia after scoring on his first shot just 1:17 into Russia’s opener against Slovenia. Malkin, the Russians’ other former NHL MVP, also didn’t score a goal after the first 3:54 of the opener.
“We had a good start, score (on the) power play, feel pretty good,” Ovechkin said. “Few mistakes cost us the game. We tried to score another one, but we didn’t score. … No emotion right now.”
Selanne and Mikael Granlund each had a goal and an assist for the steady Finns, who overcame an early deficit and silenced the Bolshoy Ice Dome with two goals in the first period. Finland will face top-seeded Sweden in the semifinals on Friday.
Russia didn’t play horribly in Sochi, winning three of its five games, but lost a painful eight-round shootout to the U.S. team before falling behind early and failing to catch up against steady Finland. The game was Russia’s fourth in five days, thanks to a qualification-round game Tuesday, while Finland had the last two days off.
Semyon Varlamov allowed all three goals on 15 shots against the Finns before getting pulled for Sergei Bobrovsky during the second period.