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Do you believe in dramatic yet predictable outcomes?
Olympic hockey favorites Canada narrowly avoided losing on their home ice in their national sport to their hated rivals, the sixth-seeded Team USA, for the second time in a week, winning the gold medal on Sidney Crosby’s sudden-death overtime strike.
In a tense, well-played, and dramatic game, Team USA battled back from a 2-0 second-period deficit, forcing a 2-2 tie when Zach Parise scored on a rebound with only 24.4 seconds left in regulation.
Ryan Miller was fantastic again for Team USA, saving 36 of the 39 shots team Canada fired at him, and was named MVP of the tournament.
Canada started the scoring with 12:50 gone in the first period. Mike Richards stole the puck from U.S. defenseman Brian Rafalski and fired a shot that Miller saved. Jonathan Towes was on the doorstep and buried the rebound for the first goal, and handing the U.S. their first deficit of the tournament.
Canada extended their lead in the second period, when Corey Perry won the puck from Ryan Whitney and snapped a shot past Miller, and the U.S. was on the ropes.
Less than a minute later, Canada broke in on a 2-on-1 rush, but Miller made a fine kick save to keep his team alive.
The U.S. battled back, and when Patrick Kane wristed a shot toward goal, Ryan Kesler of the local Vancouver Canucks tipped it with his stick, sending the puck fluttering through Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo into the net, cutting the deficit in half.
A minute later, the Americans had a great chance to tie the game on a 2-on-1, but Parise was forced wide and his snapper hit Luongo in the maple leaf logo on his chest.
Late in the second, Canada’s Dan Boyle sent a long pass to Eric Staal, who broke in alone on Miller, but his shot whistled wide.
After two periods, Canada had outshot the U.S. 25-23.
Canada nearly put the game out of reach early in the third period, hitting the goalpost twice. A bouncing shot clanged off the stick of U.S. defenseman Ryan Suter, past Miller and off the post, and soon after, Chris Pronger blasted a shot from the blue line that also clanged off the iron.
Miller had to come up big several times in the third period, stopping a tough Corey Perry deflection and making two leg saves on Dany Heatley, who was alone on the side of the net.
In desperation, Team USA turned up the pressure in the last eight minutes of regulation. Parise had a shot trickle just wide of the net. Later, he ripped a shot while diving-face first that sizzled into Luongo’s chest.
Canada had another chance to ice the game when Canada’s Peyton Manning, Crosby, broke out alone with 3:15 to play, but Miller saved his dribbling shot with the handle of his stick to keep the U.S. in the game.
With 1:30 to play, Miller was pulled for the extra skater when the U.S. got some pressure in Canada’s zone, and the Americans used their timeout with 1:17 left to set up a play. But Canada cleared the puck out of their zone.
The Americans regrouped for one final assault with less a minute left. A long shot from the point bounced out of Luongo’s glove, and team U.S.A kept the pressure on. Kane snapped a shot from the side that Luongo saved, but Parise was there for the rebound and slid it into the net with Canada less than 25 seconds from the gold medal.
The final seconds passed without any scoring threats, and the teams moved on to the first sudden-death gold medal final since 1994, when Sweden defeated Canada in a shootout for the gold.
No doubt memories of that loss were on the minds of millions of Canadians as overtime began. Would their dream team fall short in overtime again, this time to their rivals on their own ice, after being so close to victory?
Their team seized control early in the 4-on-4 overtime, with Miller forced to make three big saves just four minutes into the extra period. A minute and a half later, Miller stopped a Heatley slapper, and then a chance by Steve (Rick) Nash
The U.S. had its best overtime chance when Joe Pavelski stole the puck in Canada’s zone, but his shot was blocked by Luongo.
Soon after, Jarome Iginla won the puck in the corner of the U.S. zone and fed Crosby, who was streaking toward the net. Crosby slid the puck between Miller’s pads for the gold-medal-winner, sending his country into an explosion of joy and relief. Canadians perched on ledges and bridges around the nation came back inside, screaming “We didn’t lose, we didn’t lose!” as team Canada won their second gold medal in their last three Olympics, defeating the U.S. in the final both times.
The sixth-seeded team USA was a young group, mostly unheralded, featuring six guys named Ryan, one named Brian, and another with the last name Ryan. Top-seeded host team Canada entered the tournament as heavy favorites, though the U.S. had outplayed them in the tournament previous to the Yukon Cornelius Silver and Gold matchup, beating them 5-3 just last Sunday.