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The USA Hockey team skates off the ice following their lost to Finland in the men's Bronze Medal hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Saturday, February 22, 2014. Finland defeated USA 5-0 to capture the Bronze Medal. (Harry E. Walker/MCT)

US hockey team leaves Russia with empty feeling

ADLER, Russia -- They were ripe to be ripped, the Americans were, but it wasn't necessary for the media to lead the way this time.

The U.S. men's hockey players ripped themselves first.

"They played like they had something to win and we just kind of shut it down," captain Zach Parise said after his team lost the bronze medal game to Finland, 5-0, Saturday at Bolshoy Ice Dome. "I'm a little bit embarrassed of what happened, especially today. It wasn't a good effort by us."

Added teammate Paul Stastny, "It feels like we played this whole tournament for nothing."

After opening with a 7-1 thumping of Slovakia and a stirring 3-2 victory over Russia, the Americans ultimately headed home to their NHL day jobs decorated with nothing but defeat.

Four years ago in Vancouver, the U.S. reached the gold-medal game, losing in overtime to Team Canada. Here, they finished fourth but might as well have been last.

"We felt that we had a group that could contend for a gold medal," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "Then we had a chance to play for a bronze medal. Now, before you know it, we're going home empty-handed. The only feeling I have right now is disappointment."

The Americans scored 20 goals in winning their first four games. They then suffered consecutive shutout losses, falling Friday to Canada, 1-0, before their effort dried up against the Finnish.

The puck dropped Saturday only about 20 hours after the United States lost that stomach-burner to the Canadians.

"That's going to leave a hole in your gut for a while, losing 1-0," Ryan Kesler said. "But I thought our first period was good (Saturday). Then we just sort of ran out of gas."

The Americans did put together a solid opening period against Finland, skating off for the first intermission with score tied, 0-0.

But in the second, Ducks forward Teemu Selanne, at 43 playing in his sixth and final Olympic Games, and Jussi Jokinen scored 11 seconds apart, and the U.S. never recovered, eventually unraveling in the third period.

"It was pretty demoralizing," Parise said of the loss to Canada. "We had to turn around and realize that there was actually a bronze medal on the line, which is still a pretty big deal. But those two efforts were just not acceptable at this point."

The Americans' dismal performance included two failed penalty shots by Patrick Kane, the Chicago forward generally considered a threat in the shutout format.

Kane couldn't put the puck on net on his first attempt and then hit the post on the second, Finland's Tuukka Rask needing that one bit of good luck to retain his shutout.

"When they got the two goals a lot of frustration set in for us," Parise said. "We started to try to beat guys one-on-one and stopped playing as a team. We kind of deflated."

Of his performance Saturday and throughout the Olympics, Kane said: "No excuses. Wasn't good enough, wasn't good enough to help the team win a medal. I was expected to do a lot more."

The Americans were trying to win medals in consecutive Olympic hockey tournaments for the first time since earning gold in 1960 and silver in 1956.

Afterward, as the two teams were lined up shaking hands, Fowler and Selanne, who now are teammates again, embraced and had a brief exchange.

"If there's one guy on the planet I feel happy for in losing that game I think it's him," Fowler said. "He's one of the best players to ever live and one of the greatest guys I've known. So I'm happy for 'T.' He deserves it."

Asked what Selanne said to him, Fowler added: "He told me he was sorry. That's the kind of guy that he is. He feels for other people."

(c)2014 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.)

Visit The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.) at www.ocregister.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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US HOCKEY


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