SOCHI, Russia — A hockey team loses. A nation mourns, curses and cries.
The all-star-packed Russian men's team was under severe pressure — from the Kremlin to the cabbie in the street — to win gold and nothing less. But amid reports of infighting between the players and coaches, Russia never got its potentially high-scoring game together, and its Games ended with an embarrassing 3-1 loss to Finland in the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Finland outhustled, outsmarted, outhit and ultimately outed the Russians as a top-heavy team with exactly one player who was playing as if the entire country was counting on him to bring the gold home: captain Pavel Datsyuk of the Red Wings, who played five games on a bad leg.
"Inside, I'm absolutely empty," Datsyuk said.
Vladislav Tretiak, the Soviet goaltending great and president of the Russian Ice Hockey League, called the result a "fiasco." Among the highlights: The Capitals' Alex Ovechkin disappeared from the score sheet after getting his only goal just past the one-minute mark in the opener against Slovenia. Ditto for the Penguins' Evgeni Malkin, who also scored in the first period against Slovenia and then went pointless.
Finland and Lightning defenseman Sami Salo said he could "only imagine the kind of pressure" Russia was under. He played 15:24 and was even as the Finns advanced to a Friday semifinal meeting with Sweden, which beat Slovenia 5-0.
Finnish and Ducks forward Teemu Selanne, who scored in the first, said: "In a way, I feel sorry for (Ovechkin) and the rest of his teammates. They had a big dream to win the gold medal in their home tournament."