Finland overcomes Rask's shaky Olympic debut

Finland overcomes Rask's shaky Olympic debut
February 13, 2014, 6:30 am
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SOCHI, Russia -- Finland survived a shaky Olympic debut from Tuukka Rask as it received two goals each from Jarkko Immonen and Mikael Granlund and opened preliminary-round Olympic play with an 8-4 victory over Austria on Thursday.

The Bruins goalie surrendered four goals on just 20 shots on net, but the Finns overcame it with an overpowering offensive effort. Jussi Jokinen and Petri Kontiola each had a goal and an assist for Finland, which put 52 shots on beleaguered Austria goalie Bernhard Starkbaum despite playing the final two periods without captain Teemu Selanne.

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.

Michael Grabner scored 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.

Sami Lepisto and Olli Maatta also scored for Finland, which has never lost to Austria at the Olympics.

Selanne, nearing the end of his remarkable career, is the Finns' Olympic captain for the first time. But he got just eight shifts before apparently having problems with his neck or shoulders. Finland's trainers massaged him on the bench late in the first period, and he didn't come out for the next two periods.

Finland had more than enough offensive talent to beat Austria without him, recovering from a poor start and eventually taking control with two goals in eight seconds during the final minute of the first period.

Finland is the most consistently successful Olympic nation of the NHL era, winning medals in four of the last five Olympics. The Finns have a solid shot at medals again despite placement in Canada's preliminary-round group.

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 Anaheim teammate Sami Vatanen's outlet pass and set up 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 Thomas Vanek, his Islanders teammate. Hockey is one of just three Winter Olympics sports in which Austria has never won a medal.