A Michael Grabner hat trick was no match for a formidable Finland team that slotted eight goals past Austria to open play in Group B.
Sport: Men’s Hockey
Event: Finland vs. Austria
What happened: The puck dropped on Group B play at 3:00am Eastern time and an Austria team not expected to contend for a medal caught the favored Finns napping. New York Islanders forward Michael Grabner collected a Michael Raffl pass from the corner and scored just :30 into the first. Finland answered less than five minutes later as Mikael Granlund snagged a feed from Finnish legend Teemu Selanne and beat Boston Bruins star goalie Tuukka Rask.
Despite their hot start, at the end of the period it was Austria who fell asleep on defense and the flying Finns stunned the Austrians with two goals in eight seconds. Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Olli Maatta ripped a shot from the point that beat goalie Bernhard Starkbaum, and on the ensuing faceoff Jarkko Immonen scooped up the rebound from his own shot and tucked into the net. It was an unfortunate turn for Austria as just 40 seconds separated them from exiting the period tied at two.
The Finnish onslaught continued to start the second. Jussi Jokinen got two open shots on Starkbaum and made no mistake with the latter. The Finns were up 5-2 less than two minutes into the second stanza.
Petri Kontiola made it 6-2 just past the halfway mark of the second, collecting a loose rebound behind the net and lifting the puck over a prone Starkbaum. Finland would finish the second period with 34 shots to Austria’s 14.
Austria wasn’t done yet, though. Grabner found the net for a second time, racing past Jokinen and redirecting a pass from Brian Lebler to cut the Finnish lead to three.
Starkbaum came up with several sparkling saves in the third. Though Finland had consecutive 4-on-3 and 5-on-4 power plays, Starkbaum blanked the blue-and-white and made two breathtaking stops just as the power plays expired.
Immonen potted his second of the game during a third period power play. Standing alone in front of the net, the former New York Ranger slipped a pass from Florida Panthers rookie Aleksander Barkov past Starkbaum for a 7-3 lead.
Michael Grabner grabbed Sochi’s first hat trick with a third period goal, keeping the puck during a 3-on-1 and wristing it past Rask. But Finland’s Granlund answered a few minutes later on the power play and the game ended 8-4 in favor of the Finns.
Finnish captain Selanne was seen receiving medical attention to his neck on the bench during the opening period and did not return after the first intermission.
Next up for Finland is Norway on Valentine’s Day. Austria faces Canada later the same evening.