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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Barely two minutes into the game, Finnish goalie Miikka Kiprusoff was staring at the ceiling in disbelief.
It turns out he was just getting started.
Ryan Malone raced into Finland's zone, picked off Kiprusoff's ill-advised pass and scored into an empty net. The U.S. rout was on.
What happened next in this semifinal jolted Canada Hockey Place: The Americans scored four times on Kiprusoff in a six-goal first period yesterday, winning 6-1 and surging into the Olympic gold-medal game. As the clock ran out, U.S. captain Jamie Langenbrunner led the celebration by banging his stick against the boards as his teammates hugged on the bench .
The U.S. will meet Canada tomorrow, 50 years to the day after capturing gold in 1960 at Squaw Valley, Calif. Canada beat Slovakia, 3-2, to advance.
"It was a crazy 12 minutes," said forward Patrick Kane, who scored twice. "I've never been a part of something like that. It seemed like we were scoring every shift."
It felt even longer to the Finns.
"The game is over after six minutes," 39-year-old Finland forward Teemu Selanne said. "It was a long day and very disappointing."
By the time Kiprusoff left the game 10:08 in, the U.S. had a 4-0 lead on only seven shots. The Calgary Flames goalie had allowed four goals total on 75 shots in three previous games, giving him the top save percentage in the tournament.
"No one is ever as good as they look. And no one is ever as bad as they look, either," Langenbrunner said.
Kiprusoff's day appeared to be over after Eric Johnson made it 3-0 with a power-play goal at 8:36. That prompted Finnish coach Jukka Jalonen to call timeout. Kiprusoff got a reprieve, but was back at the bench 1:32 later when Kane scored his first.
This time, Kiprusoff kept his mask on and marched straight down the tunnel toward the dressing room. Backup goalie Niklas Backstrom pulled off his baseball cap and took Kiprusoff's place in the net.
Things didn't go any better for him. Backstrom got beat twice on the first four shots he faced.
"We didn't expect that in a million years," U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson said. "I don't think anyone did, especially when you get down to the final four, but it happened for us and we're looking forward to Sunday."
It will be the first time since 1972 the U.S. men will play for Olympic gold on foreign soil.
Canada edged the U.S. for gold during the 2002 Salt Lake City Games, and a rematch is now on tap. The Americans (5-0) topped the host nation, 5-3, to conclude preliminary play Sunday.
"It's hard to beat a team twice in a tournament like this," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "We've beaten Canada, and we'll play better than we did the last time."
CANADA 3, SLOVAKIA 2
VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Now, the rematch.
Canada opened up a three-goal lead, then held off a late Slovakia comeback to win in the Olympic semifinals last night to earn a second chance against the United States in the gold-medal game.
The Americans must beat favored Canada for a second time in eight days to win their first Olympic gold since the Miracle on Ice in 1980. Canada is going for its first gold medal on home ice.
"I can't wait," Canada forward Jarome Iginla said. "We love the chance of playing them again. There's a lot of rivalries with them — from world juniors through the ladies. They beat us. Now we have the opportunity to play them again. It's going to be exciting, for the gold medal."
Patrick Marleau, Brenden Morrow and Ryan Getzlaf scored in the opening 24 minutes to give Canada a seemingly safe 3-0 lead before Slovakia, an Olympic semifinalist for the first time, got goals from Lubomir Visnovsky and Michal Handzus less than four minutes apart in the third period.
"Yeah, it wasn't what we expected, for sure," Sidney Crosby said. "They got a couple of breaks and got some life. This was a good test for us."