Canada Bests U.S.A. in Gold Medal Overtime
VANCOUVER, British Columbia - Zach Parise nearly crushed Canada's party.
But the nation's favorite son gave the home fans the one gold medal they coveted above all others at the Vancouver Olympics.
Sidney Crosby burst in on U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller and slid the puck past him 7:40 into overtime Sunday, ending a dramatic gold-medal hockey game that provided a fitting conclusion to these Games.
"It doesn't even feel real. It feels like a dream," Crosby said after Canada's 3-2 win at Canada Hockey Place. "I didn't see it go in the net. I just heard everyone scream."
The victory gave Canada a 14th gold medal, the most in any Winter Games. But this one has as much value as the other 13 combined in a nation that invented hockey and still considers itself the keepers of the flame.
Ryan Kesler summed up the feeling in the U.S. locker room in one word: disappointment.
"I thought we deserved better," said Kesler, who scored Team USA's first goal by deflecting a Patrick Kane shot 12:44 into the second period. "That's what happens in overtime. You get one lucky break, and they capitalized on it."
Crosby, often regarded as the best hockey player in the world, had been quiet all game. But Jarome Iginla dug the puck out of the left corner and sent it to the faceoff circle, where Crosby was breaking in on Miller from a tight angle.
"I think the puck got caught up in the ref's feet, or someone's feet, and it kind of spun our guys around for a second," said Miller, the tournament MVP whose 42 saves helped Team USA beat Canada 5-3 in the preliminary round of this tournament.
"Sidney was walking in, he's a lefty there, and I thought he had his head down for a second. But he got his head up right as I was going to make him make a decision. I've been aggressive all tournament, and I wasn't going to change my game just because we were in overtime."
Instead of trying to deke Miller, Crosby surprised him by sliding the puck beneath him.
"We just decided that we wanted to go for it the best we can," Canadian coach Mike Babcock said of his decision to stick with Crosby's sputtering line in the extra period. "I thought Iggy and Sid would have a chance. And in the end they obviously made a good play, and he beat Miller to the deck with a quick release."
The U.S. hadn't trailed in this tournament until Canada scored 12:50 into the first period. The home team added a second goal midway through the second, before Team USA came to life on a power play. Kesler's goal followed soon after, but the U.S. couldn't solve Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo again until 24.4 seconds remained in regulation.
That goal, which came with the U.S. playing without a goalie in favor of a sixth attacker, also started with a Kane shot that wound up in traffic in the crease. Parise got his stick on the loose puck before Luongo could slide over to block it. He celebrated his fourth goal of the Olympics by skating to the corner, leaping and driving his shoulder into the glass.
"Just a rebound in front, and I found myself alone," Parise said. "I think Jamie (Langenbrunner) tipped it, and I had an open net. It was a great feeling. It was unbelievable. But it sucks to go from such a high, so much excitement, to this."
Despite settling for silver, Kesler believed the Americans made a statement in Vancouver.
"We proved that it's not just Canada's game," he said. "We took them to overtime. We beat them once already."
But not when it mattered most. Crosby, the toast of Canada, saw to that.
"You know, every kid dreams of that opportunity," he said. "And it could have been anyone else. It could have been anyone in that room."