Fins dump Czech Repuplic

Alan Robinson

, Last Updated: 8:57 AM ET

TURIN, Italy (AP) -- Blood on the ice. Hockey's biggest scorer being helped off with an ugly and unnecessary injury. A rivalry created.

Olympics men's hockey isn't supposed to be this nasty, this violent, especially not so early in the games.

Jaromir Jagr, the NHL's leading scorer, was assisted off the ice with a bloody cut forehead after being slammed into the boards, and the Czech Republic suffered a 4-2 loss Saturday that kept Finland as one of two unbeatens in the tournament.

Afterward, Czech coach Alois Hadamczik said Jagr did not suffer a concussion while being driven into the boards by Finland's Jarkko Ruutu in the second period, resulting in Ruutu's ejection. The coach was incensed with the hit and said it marred the game.

"The shadow of this game is the foul on Jaromir Jagr," he said.

Taking advantage of Jagr's absence for the second half of the game, Finland (3-0) secured a spot in the eight-team quarter-finals with the comeback win. The Finns rallied on two goals by Jere Lehtinen of the Dallas Stars and Teemu Selanne's fifth in three games after trailing 1-0.

The Czechs (1-2), given the best chance of taking the gold medal from favoured Canada, lost their second in a row but still can reach the quarter-finals. They play winless Italy on Sunday and need only to finish in the top four in their six-team pool to move on, and Italy and Germany are winless with identical 0-2-1 records.

"The quarter-finals is going to be the key game for us," Czech forward Martin Straka said.

How much of a threat the Czechs would be without their two best-known players -- Jagr and goalie Dominik Hasek -- is uncertain. Hasek, the goalie who led them to the 1998 gold medal, left Turin on Friday with an injured leg. Jagr's status is uncertain, though his coach said he could play again as early as Sunday.

With the score tied at 1 in the second period, Jagr was digging for the puck along the boards in the Czech end when Ruutu, of the Vancouver Canucks, sped across the ice from the far edge of the left circle, his left elbow up, and rammed Jagr headfirst into the boards.

Jagr, who leads the NHL with 88 points for the New York Rangers, crumpled and lay face down for several minutes, a pool of blood collecting on the ice. He was then helped to the locker-room, wobbling most of the way.

Ruutu, jumped by Straka after delivering the hit, drew a game misconduct as the thousands of Czech fans in a nearly full arena whistled loudly for several minutes.

"I saw Jaromir down, so I wanted to take care of business," said Straka, Jagr's teammate with the Rangers. "That's how it is. You just have to go in and do what you do."

Asked if the Finns intentionally targeted Jagr, coach Erkka Westerlund said, "Of course it wasn't by purpose. We need star players here."

An already tense, physical game in a noisy, banner-draped arena became even more so after that, although there were no fights. Lehtinen put Finland up 2-1 at 15:02 of the second by poking the puck past goalie Tomas Vokoun during a scramble, but Marek Zidlicky tied it late in the second during a Czech two-man advantage.

Finland took the lead for good on Selanne's goal 30 seconds into the third period on a wrist shot from close in that Vokoun couldn't handle, and Lehtinen added his third in three games. The Lehtinen-Saku Koivu-Selanne line combined for eight points.

"We have all played together over the last year so we know each other's style," Koivu said. "We tried to make things happen and put the puck in the net."

Finland goalie Antero Niittymaki of the Philadelphia Flyers played a strong game, turning aside 37 of 39 shots. But he was required to make few hard saves, and he thinks something went out of the Czechs when Jagr went down.

"Maybe when you lose the best player in the world it does affect you," he said. "I was a little surprised at the way they played after that."

The only other unbeaten team in the 12-team tournament is Slovakia, which beat the United States 2-1 Saturday to stay atop Group B.


Photos