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Finns rally to beat Slovaks 5-3 for bronze medal

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Miikka Kiprusoff braced himself for one last onslaught.

This one, he got to enjoy.

The Finns swarmed Kiprusoff, dropping their sticks and patting the goaltender's helmet, after he helped them hold off Slovakia for a 5-3 win Saturday in the men's hockey bronze-medal game.

Kiprusoff was humiliated and benched the day before, giving up four goals to the U.S. on just seven shots.

At the other end of the ice, the Slovaks stood silent, slumped against the boards, anger and regret playing across their faces.

Kiprusoff bounced back from an awful performance with a solid one, Olli Jokinen scored two of Finland's three third-period goals to cap a rally and the Finns added one in an empty net for the victory.

"We believed that we could come back, and it was a huge comeback," Teemu Selanne said. "After 23 years playing for the national team, after five Olympics, this is a dream come true.

"If somebody were to tell us before the tournament we would win the bronze medal, we would have taken that."

The Finns became the first to win three medals since the NHL let its players compete at the 1998 Winter Games and the only team to be a repeat medalist, following up the silver it won four years ago.

Kiprusoff had 19 saves, regaining his confidence just one day after he was pulled when the U.S. scored four goals on seven shots in just 10 minutes.

Slovakia's Richard Zednik had a chance to tie the game with 1:25 remaining but couldn't control a bouncing puck and Pavol Demitra hit the right post seconds later in what were the team's best opportunities to make it 4-all.

"We got some bounces, and our goalie made some great saves," said Niklas Hagman, whose goal sparked the Finns' third-period rally.

Valtteri Filppula sealed the victory with 10 seconds left on an empty-net goal.

Slovakia, which led 3-1 after two periods, blew a shot to win its first medal since forming its federation in 1993 following the breakup of Czechoslovakia.

"Being fourth, I feel like the biggest loser," said Demitra, who almost scored a game-tying goal in the final seconds the day before against Canada. "Being fourth is worse than being eighth, for me."

That heartbreak was easily seen. Goaltender Jaroslav Halak leaned disconsolately against the boards, Marian Gaborik slammed his helmet down soon after getting off the ice, and Andrej Sekera broke his stick over a railing.

"Just a tough pill to swallow right now," said Marian Hossa who scored a go-ahead goal in the second period. "We were in a great position coming into the third."

While the Slovaks were losing their cool over their collapse, the Finns posed for a picture at center ice as Finland President Tarja Halonen wildly waved the country's blue-and-white flag from a suite.

Halonen, who watched the women's team win bronze earlier in the week, later joined the Finns' celebration in their dressing room.

"She said maybe I should hug everybody, but then she just hugged Kipper," Salo said.

The 39-year-old Selanne said his fifth Olympics — one short of the record — would be his last. He became the Olympic career scoring leader earlier in the games.

Jokinen — despite being just 31 — also announced the game would be his last with the national team.

"For a lot of guys, this is such a positive ending," Tuomo Ruutu said. "It's a really good way for some of the guys to maybe end their Olympic careers."

Salo gave the Finns a 1-0 lead with a power-play goal — their first of three — late in the first period, then they trailed by two goals after the second.

The Slovaks looked like they would be celebrating at the end of the night when Hossa scored a go-ahead goal early in the second period, hopping on his skates and pumping his gloves in the air, and Demitra scored a short-handed late in the period after assisting on the first two goals.

Their mood changed after the two-goal lead turned into a one-goal deficit in a 3:35 span of the third period.

Hagman started the comeback with a power-play goal 5:06 into the period, then Jokinen scored the tying and game-winning goals in a 2-minute span. Halak struggled during the pivotal stretch and finished with 28 saves.

The Finns said Saku Koivu's speech during the second intermission provided a spark.

"I said there's nothing you can do about what happened, but you have 20 minutes to try to change things around," Koivu said "You can think of these things for the next four years, maybe for some guys the rest of your lives, so that was not the time to feel sorry for ourselves."