VANCOUVER – Canada has capped the Golden Games with the medal that matters, beating the United States 3-2 in an Olympic hockey overtime thriller at Canada Hockey Place.
Sidney Crosby scored on a low shot through Ryan Miller’s legs seven minutes 40 seconds into overtime to decide the last medal of the Vancouver Olympics.
“I just shot it,” he told CTV. “I didn’t really see it to be honest.”
It’s Canada’s 14th gold of the Vancouver Games, breaking the record for most gold medals at a Winter Olympics. The Soviet Union, in 1976, and Norway, in 2002, each won 13.
Zach Parise sent the game into overtime, stuffing in a rebound from in-close off a Patrick Kane shot with just 24.4 seconds left and Miller on the bench.
That forced a 20-minute sudden-death overtime, played four-on-four.
Jonathan Toews and Corey Perry scored for Canada in the first and second period, respectively. Miller stood tall the rest of the game in the U.S. net.
Ryan Kesler cut the margin to 2-1 in the second period, deflecting a shot past Roberto Luongo.
The gold was Canada’s eighth in men’s hockey at the Games – and the first since Team Canada defeated the host U.S. 5-2 at the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
The Canadian women’s team won hockey gold Thursday, defeating the U.S. 2-0.
A wild end to regulation time saw Miller pulled with an extra attacker with 1:30 left to play.
Parise, the Americans’ best forward in the tournament, tied the game and forced OT as Kane’s shot went off Jamie Langenbrunner’s skate to the front of the net where Parise slipped it past Luongo.
Toews and Perry spotted Canada a 2-0 lead before Kesler scored on a deflection in the second period for the U.S.
The packed stands at Canada Hockey Place were like a giant party for flag- and sign-waving revellers dressed in Canadian red and white.
The Canadian men did it in a game that outmatched even a Stanley Cup final in pace and ferocity, as thundering hits were made on both sides and the NHL referees mostly kept their whistles in their pockets and let them battle.
As in 2002 in Salt Lake City, Canada took gold in both men’s and women’s hockey – this time in the first Olympic tournament held on the smaller NHL-size ice surface.
The Canadian team looked to be in trouble after losing 5-3 to the U.S. in their final preliminary round game a week earlier.
But as they did in Salt Lake, they improved with each game and found the cohesion and intensity to claw their way into the final and a chance to avenge the loss to the fast but less skilled Americans and their quick-legged Miller, who took a 1.04 goals-against average into the final.
The U.S. win in round-robin play forced Canada to play an extra elimination round game. Even though that was an easy 8-2 win over German, the sense was that the youthful American team would be fresher in the third period of the final and they were.
But in a wild third, Canada’s Shea Weber and Chris Pronger hit goalposts in the first two minutes, Dany Heatley just failed to lift a puck over sprawled Miller 10 minutes in, and Crosby, held without a point in the final three games, lost the handle on the puck on a late breakaway thanks to determined backchecking from Kane.
At the other end, Luongo held his ground and the defence kept shooters out of the goal area in a bid to preserve the win.
The opening minutes of the game saw heavy hitting from both sides, particularly U.S. defenceman Brooks Orpik who nearly put Heatley into the players bench, but Canada did not allow the Americans to establish pressure in their zone.
Toews connected 12:50 into the game as the Chicago centre and Mike Richards combined to win battles for the puck near the net against Erik Johnson and Paul Stastny and Richards pushed it to Toews for high shot from in close.
It was the first of the tournament for perhaps Canada’s most consistent forward and marked the first time the U.S. had trailed in a game.
Canada had just completed its first penalty kill when Ryan Getzlaf skated into the U.S. and zone and saw his pass go off Ryan Whitney’s skate to Perry alone in front for a quick shot and his fourth goal at 8:25.
Just as the flag and sign-waving crowd began to party in the seats, the U.S. struck back as Kane snapped a shot that went off the shaft of Kesler’s stick and trickled through Luongo’s equipment at 12:44.
Between periods, Kesler told a TV interviewer he felt his Vancouver teammate Luongo was fighting the puck, as he had in previous games.
Canada became the first country to win hockey gold on home ice since the American Miracle On Ice team from the 1980 Games in Lake Placid.
It was a first loss at these Games for the Americans. The last hockey team to go undefeated at the Olympics was the Soviet Union, which was 5-0 in Calgary in 1988.
Both referees Bill McCreary and Dan O’Halloran, as well as linesman Jean Morin are Canadian. The other linesman was Stefan Fonselius of Finland.
The full house was also packed with celebrities, including Prime Minister Stephen Harper, singers Neil Young and Bryan Adams, actors William Shatner and Vince Vaughn, and from the sports world, golfer Mike Weir and hockey greats Gordie Howe and Mark Messier.