For the first 40 minutes, this wasn't a matter of the U.S. going through the motions. There was Ryan Kesler blocking a shot with his chest in the first period in a mad scramble to prevent the Finns from opening the scoring. Jonathan Quick was once again terrific, stopping a handful of difficult chances while the Americans seemed to regain their offensive footing.
The Americans controlled the puck for long stretches of play. They generated traffic in front, were creative and forced Finnish netminder Tuukka Rask, who had missed the Finns' semifinal loss to Sweden because of illness, to be sharp. Midway through the first period, it seemed as though the U.S. had enjoyed as much puck possession time as it had in the entire semifinal loss to Canada.
But the Finns, one of the pleasant surprises of this tournament, continued to play impressive hockey in spite of injuries and scored twice in 11 seconds early in the second period, the first on a backhand by incomparable Teemu Selanne in his Olympic swan song, to create a meteor-sized crater from which the Americans could not emerge.
Want a snapshot of this tournament for an American team that came within a goal of winning a gold medal four years ago in Vancouver and that came out of the preliminary round in Sochi the consensus best team in the tournament? How about two?
In the first period, Patrick Kane was elected to take a penalty shot after Finnish defenseman Kimmo Timonen shot a broken stick at Kane's linemate Kesler. The two-time Stanley Cup champ, who scored the Cup-winning goal in 2010 and who has evolved into one of the most dangerous players in the game, saw the puck roll off the end of his stick as he tried to make a move. Then in the second, after the Finns had stunned the U.S. with their two quick goals, Kane burst into the clear and had his stick slashed in half by a Finnish defender. Another penalty shot was awarded. On this one, Kane shot, only to have the puck strike the post just below the crossbar, the puck bouncing right back to Kane as though to mock him.
Through six games, Kane failed to score a goal. He was also in the penalty box (or just about to come out) when the Finns began to turn the game into a rout with their third goal of the game early in the third. It was one of the most disappointing games of his career, Kane acknowledged.
"No excuses," the Chicago Blackhawks star said. "I wasn't good enough to help the team win a medal. Obviously, I was expected to do a lot more. When you come over here and put up zero goals and four assists in six games, it's not the numbers you want to see. Definitely disappointing."
This isn't to suggest Kane is the only reason the U.S. did not beat Canada or did not come home with a medal, but it illustrates the ethereal nature of success in tournaments like this.
Phil Kessel went into the bronze-medal game tied with Sweden's Erik Karlsson for the tournament scoring lead with eight points. But he was ineffective in the semifinal game and in Saturday's collapse against Finland.