HALIFAX – Finland defeated Norway 3-2 in overtime of its second game of the 2008 IIHF World Championship. Truly, the Finns dodged a bullet against a markedly improved Norway
Tuomo Ruutu’s goal in overtime sealed the win.
"In the end we did win and that is a positive," said captain Ville Peltonen.
Finland wasted no time in establishing its presence. Martin Roymark was called for elbowing a minute and a half into the contest. All of 17 seconds later, Jussi Jokinen scored off a feed from Niko Kapanen. Ville Koistinen got the other assist.
With Finland scoring so quickly and on their first shot of the game, it was easy to believe that Norway would struggle in trying to keep up.
But the Norwegians would not back down.
"I thought Norway played very well today," said Finnish head coach Doug Shedden. "Norway made it very difficult for us but our defense did not play well today, especially in the first period."
Morten Ask answered back when at the 15:34 mark when he sent a wrist shot in stride past Petri Vehanen, making his World Championship debut in goal. Ask appears to be back in form after leading Norway in scoring at the championship in Moscow.
Midway through the first, Tuomo Ruutu delivered a jarring hit on Juha Kaunismaki, which led to an elbowing call but the Norwegians would not stop pressing. In fact they continued hustling for loose pucks and winning battles in the corners.
Finland had a golden opportunity when Olli Jokinen raced down with Teemu Selanne on a two-on-one. Jokinen had a great scoring chance so close in on goal but tried to pass instead to Selanne who by then was picked up by the sole defender.
Ville Peltonen scored a power play goal to make it 2-1. Mikko Koivu’s pass back to Peltonen was responsible for setting up the goal. Selanne also received an assist.
Then the game grew even more intriguing.
The period ended with a 5-on-3 as Jussi Jokinen was sent off at 18:11 and Peltonen at 19:03. This would have to be Norway’s chance to generate some offense and get back in the game.
Norway took advantage of the Jokinen penalty as Anders Bastiansen scored with nine seconds remaining in the period. Norway would enter the second still on the power play.
The two teams continued to trade chances back and forth with chances on both ends of the ice but the game remained tied at 2-2.
Finland opened the third with a wonderful chance as Niko Kapanen’s strong shot was padded away by Pal Grotnes. Today’s game was Grotnes first action of the tournament and he was exceptional.
"We have to play our system if we are going to do well, and we did that today," said Grotnes.
Koivu started a charge that led to a close in chance in chance for Jussi Jokinen and one for Sean Bergenheim.
The Norwegian offense dried up significantly in the third but when Koistinen was called off for delay of game, and under five minutes remaining, Norway peppered Vehanen with shots.
With ten seconds remaining Koivu tried to jam home the puck as he was in front but Grotnes would not budge.
In the overtime session, Ruutu took the puck wide and sent it on net. The puck found its way past Grotnes, ending the game.
The improvement in Norway’s performance from Saturday was remarkable. It was a complete turnaround from their opener.
"Our preparation just was not good enough today," said Peltonen. "We had a good game against Germany and we thought we could just come out and win today without trying."
While some would say the Finns did not play well, the Norwegians deserve credit for making it a game by responding after each of Finland’s first two goals. Norway must now take that confidence into their next game against Germany.
With the win, Finland gets two points. They next face Slovakia in their final game of the round. They will receive a much-needed spark when Saku Koivu arrives in time to upgrade their roster.