It’s only fitting that Sidney Crosby, the next “great one” would score the goal to get Canada the gold medal on home soil, as Canada beat the USA 3-2 in OT.
His goal 7:40 minutes into overtime etched his name forever in Canadian hockey lore and sent the Canadian crowd into raptures, as they finally got the gold medal they had desired for eight years.
And with a gold medal on the line, the two teams produced one of the greatest hockey games ever played.
Canada seemed on their way to the gold after a first period goal from forward Jonathan Toews and a second period goal from forward Corey Perry gave them a 2-0 advantage.
For Toews, it was just his first goal of the Olympic tournament, but he had recorded seven assists, which was the top in the tournament. It was also the first goal given up by USA goalie Ryan Miller, who kept a shutout streak of 124 minutes and 28 seconds over four games.
And it was star American Brian Rafalski who lost control of the puck, which led to Canadian forward Mike Richards taking a shot that was parried by Miller right to Toews, who finished from an acute angle.
The second Canadian goal came after an odd man rush by the U.S.A was snuffed out, and the Canadians skated towards the opposing net with numbers of their own. Getzlaf passed the puck from the left side towards the right side, and teammate Corey Perry had a wide open shot, and he buried it past Miller.
But the Americans, who matched the Canadians physicality step for step (or skate for skate) throughout the whole game, kept attacking, and finally American forward Ryan Kesler had enough.
After starting a dash up ice from his own blue line, the Livonia, Michigan native passed the puck off to teammate Patrick Kane, who hesitated before pulling the trigger and taking a wrist shot on goal.
Kesler, who was charging at the net, got a piece of the puck, which deflected it just enough to go under the right arm of Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo and into the back of the net.
That made the score 2-1 to Canada, and it stayed that way into the third period.
The final period of regulation was a back and forth affair, with numerous scoring chances for both Canada and the U.S.A, but both squads goalies coming up big and keeping the score close.
Fans hearts were in their mouths one minute, and the next, back in their chest.
With 1:17 left in the third period, the Americans pulled their goalie, Ryan Miller, to add an extra attacker, and it paid dividends, when a loose puck was caroled by Patrick Kane, whose shot was parried by Luongo right to American Zach Parise, who slammed the puck into the net with 24.4 seconds left and tied the score at 2-2.
As fitting as it was for Crosby to end his scoring drought with the game winning goal for the Great White North, it was just as fitting that Zach Parise, the son of the famous Canadian hockey player, J.P. Parise, would be the hero for the United States.
The 2-2 score line sent the game into overtime, where the competitive and physical play that we saw throughout the first three periods continued.
But finally, after a few chances for both teams, Crosby passed to forward Jerome Iginla, who gave it back to Crosby to the left of the net.
From there Crosby took a quick shot, which slid right under the pads of Miller into the back of the net, and gave Canada a 3-2 win.
The win made gave team Canada their eighth gold medal in their history, and it was just the third time ever that the home nation had won the gold. The first two times were the USA, in 1960 in Squaw Valley, California, and the famous 1980 team, in Lake Placid, NY.
After the game, both teams received their medals, the Americans, silver, and the Canadians, gold, before the raising of the Canadian, American, and Finnish flags and the playing of the national anthem of Canada, “O Canada.”
Also announced after the game, USA and Canada combined to place five of the six players on the all-star team of the tournament.
USA goalie Ryan Miller, defenseman Brian Rafalski, and forward Zach Parise made the team, as did Canadian defenseman Shea Weber, and forward Jonathan Toews.
The lone European was forward Pavol Demitra of Slovakia, who finished with 10 points on three goals and seven assists.
Miller was named Tournament MVP, as well as the best goalie. Rafalski was named top defenseman, and Toews was named the top forward.
Miller finished with just eight goals against in six games, good for a 1.35 goals against average, and a tournament best 94.56 save percentage and 139 saves, also a tournament best.
Rafalski and Parise both finished with eight points on four goals and four assists, good for third place among skaters.
And Toews seven assists lead all skaters, as was his +9 rating. In fact he was never on the ice when Canada gave up a goal.
For the Americans, as tough as this loss is to swallow, they proved to the world that you don’t need a team of superstars to win games, and that heart, emotion, and passion, as well as an amazing goalie, can help get you a medal.
More importantly, team USA’s overall performance in Vancouver got more and more people to watch a hockey game, and certainly for the immediate time revived interest in the sport.
And for the Canadians, they certainly earned it, and deserve to celebrate the gold medal that they won.
See you in four years in Sochi, Russia!
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