Olympics-Finns win first stage of Tour de Sochi

Reuters

* Granlund and Immonen net two each

* Grabner grabs Olympic hat-trick (Adds quotes, detail)

By Steve Keating

SOCHI, Russia Feb 13 (Reuters) - Finland took a Tour de Sochi approach to open the Olympic men's ice hockey competition, riding bikes to the Boshoy Ice Dome on Thursday before cruising to an 8-4 win over Austria.

Although it was just the first stage of the 12-day tournament, the Finns got off to a flying start with the help of two goals each from Mikael Granlund and Jarkko Immonen.

On a brilliant sunny day at the Black Sea resort, the Finland players opted to make a leisurely 10-minute ride to the arena on blue bikes rather than take the bus.

"Everybody did, we all rode bikes from the village," Finland netminder Tuukka Rask told reporters. "I ride bikes all the time so no problem, I'm use to it.

"It was probably the fastest way to get here."

Austria, back in the Olympic ice hockey competition for the first time since the 2002 Salt Lake Games, announced their return in stunning style with Michael Grabner scoring the first of his three goals just 36 seconds after the opening faceoff.

But the Finns, who have reached the podium in four of the last five Games, were soon back in control with Olli Maatta and Immonen scoring eight seconds apart to put their team 4-2 ahead at the end of the opening period.

"Well the start wasn't good for us," said Rask. "We weren't ready to play and they came at us hard.

"The first goal, everybody got caught sleeping and then it's in the back of the net, and we battled back. So it definitely looked like after that first goal we woke up and didn't let that bother us.

"Kind of a disaster to (allow) those goals. We battled back right away, and got the lead, and kept it."

Sami Lepisto, Jussi Jokinen and Petri Kontiola rounded out the Finland scoring.

Grabner added a pair of third-period tallies to complete a hat-trick for Austria and Thomas Hundertpfund got the other goal.

The win could prove a costly one for the Finns with captain Teemu Selanne leaving the game after the first period with what was described by coach Erkka Westerlund as a "small upper body injury".

The 43-year-old Selanne, competing in this sixth Olympics, set up Finland's first goal but was later spotted on the bench getting treatment around his neck and shoulder area.

Westerlund said the injury did not appear serious and Selanne could be ready to return for Finland's second preliminary round game on Friday against Norway.

"I don't think it's anything serious, probably just a precaution," said Rask. "He'll be back." (Editing by Ed Osmond)

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