This game was billed as one for the ages – a battle of two hockey super powers. Americans and Canadians gathered together in bars and living rooms to cheer on their teams as they faced their across the border rivals for the coveted gold medal. And now that I have finally caught my breath and the blood pressure has returned to levels of normalcy, HM can say that this one lived up to every bit of the pre-game hype and then some!
As expected, the tempo was crazy fast in the opening minutes of the first period. Team USA shook off the nerves and brought it hard to the Canadians with a tenacious forecheck. And you won’t hear me cheering for this guy ever again, but Brooks Orpik was outstanding in his attempts to leave carnage all over the ice with thundering hits on team mate Sidney Crosby and the Shark’s Dany Heatley, who was rudely introduced to the U.S. bench in the middle minutes of the opening period. Around the seven-minute mark, Mike Richards’ rebound was picked up by the Blackhawk’s young captain, Jonathan Toews, putting the maple leafs on the board first and inciting an already raucous crowd. On a side note, the Vancouver local authorities were so concerned about the results of mixing large quantities of alcohol with rowdy Canadian fans that they closed the downtown liquor stores at 2 p.m.!
The first penalty of the game came with about five minutes left as USA’s Bobby Ryan took a seat in the sin bin for tripping. The U.S. players did a good job on their first penalty kill. HM’s observations of USA’s first period: Needed to get more bodies in front of Luongo and make sure not to clear the puck down the center in our own zone.
Second period action started with a boneheaded move by USA’s Ryan Malone, as he cross-checked Corey Perry to the face and took a seat for the high stick. His team mate Chris Drury sacrificed his body with some stellar shot-blocking to kill the U.S. penalty. Seconds later, Eric Staal went off giving the Americans a power play opportunity. The boys in red, white and blue squandered away the man advantage and seconds later the dangerous Ducks duo of Getzlaf and Perry contributed to Canada’s second goal.
But our gritty, young stars were not rattled and kept up the pressure on the hometown boys. The Americans cut the lead to one as a pass off the stick of Patrick Kane ended up on the blade of Ryan Kesler and right into Luongo’s net. Our boys seemed to get the net-crashing memo towards the end of the middle stanza for sure. End of the second period: Canada 2 – USA 1
Ryan Miller had to stand on his head against the Ducks line along with several other players in red and white in the early minutes of the final period. Zach Parise had a few attempts getting the puck to the net but Luongo was able to contain them. Brian Rafalski, who’s had an outstanding Olympic campaign, also had a beautiful shot on goal that was stonewalled by “Bobby Lou.” A very scary moment for the U.S. (or a dream come true for Canadians) occurred when Sidney Crosby raced down the ice for a breakaway but was chased down by Patrick Kane. Kane was moving so fast, you’d think he was trying to hail a cab during rush hour – well done!
Team USA continued to fight and just when we thought all was lost, Zach Parise showed us once again what he’s made of and tallied the tie goal with less than 25 seconds left in the game! This incredible battle taking place on a worldwide stage in front of diehard fans and casual spectators alike was not over yet! In the biggest game in decades, these incredible players proudly representing the best North America has to offer were headed to 4-on-4 sudden overtime. As if our hearts could take anymore!
And in an absolute fairytale ending for Canadians (and a heart-wrenching tearjerker for Americans), none other than Sidney Crosby himself crashed the net and scored the game winning goal for the gold medal. Despite the fact that Ovechkin's bitter rival and Canada’s face of the game was virtually invisible throughout much of this tournament, he has an innate knack for coming through at key moments and he did just that. Congratulations to Canada for the win and the gold medal. And also to Team USA and the phenomenal Ryan Miller (who won tournament MVP as he should) – backed by the brave Wounded Warriors and all of the country, you guys showed us your trademark tenacity, spirit and fight, making us all proud to be Americans! I can just hear the phones ringing at local ice houses across the U.S. with thousands of parents inquiring about Learn to Play clinics for their future Zach Parise or Ryan Miller! Even though we as Americans are still disappointed (even more so for our guys who worked so hard), it was one of the most incredible games you'll ever see and today's game did so much for the great game we love so much...