The U.S. Olympic men's hockey team still had a chance to salvage something on Feb. 22. Although the U.S. suffered an ugly end to its gold medal dreams on Feb. 21 against Canada, the bronze medal and some national pride was still in reach against Finland. Yet after the first period, the USA lost all of this in decisive fashion, flaming out of the Olympics in infamy with a 5-0 defeat.
None of the USA's achievements in its first four Olympic games will be remembered now -- not its 17 goals, not its perfect record and not even its shootout victory over the Russians. In fact, even though the Russians lost in the quarterfinals on home ice, the Americans still suffered the most embarrassing exit of this Olympic hockey tournament.
Losing by 1-0 to Canada in the semifinals was somewhat excusable, in spite of how losing to Canada in the medal round gets more tiresome every four years. Getting blown out by Finland 24 hours later, without even scoring one more goal, officially made these Olympics a dramatic disappointment for the Americans.
On the other side, Finland salvaged a medal for the fourth time in the last five Olympic hockey tournaments, although none of them are gold. The bronze was still a satisfying parting gift for 42-year-old Finnish legend Teemu Selanne, who also racked up two goals in his final Olympic contest.
Selanne opened the scoring in the second period, as the U.S. was lucky enough to get through the first period at 0-0. Patrick Kane could have given the Americans a long awaited goal in the first, but he was stuffed on a penalty shot -- the first of two he missed on the day.
Once Selanne finally got the Fins on the board, they never let up. It was 2-0 just 11 seconds later, yet the floodgates really broke open in the third. Selanne's second goal made it 4-0 midway through the third, and then one last goal by Olli Maatta buried the Americans further.
Getting over an overtime gold medal loss in 2010 was hard enough for U.S. hockey. Not scoring in two medal round games and leaving Sochi with nothing will cast a four-year shadow over American hockey -- and it may not even have NHL players around to avenge it in the next Olympics.