Miller, U.S. stun Canada
VANCOUVER — Playing in throwback jerseys from the 1960 Olympics, the U.S. men’s hockey team rode the hot goaltending of Ryan Miller to defeat Team Canada 5-3 on Sunday — its first Olympic victory over its northern rival since winning gold at the Games 50 years ago.
Brian Rafalski scored two goals and Miller made 42 saves as the Americans came out on top of a wildly entertaining hockey game.
The biggest question for the Canadian team will be who starts in goal Tuesday, when Canada faces a must-win playoff to advance to the quarter-finals. Martin Brodeur looked a bit shaky against the U.S. and was also the victim of a couple bad bounces, perhaps opening the door for Roberto Luongo to assume the No. 1 job.
Canada won’t find out its opponent in Tuesday’s playoff game until after the preliminary round ends with the Sweden-Finland matchup later Sunday, but it does know that only victories will be good enough from here. Team Canada needs four straight wins to earn the gold medal an entire country is yearning for.
Chris Drury, Jamie Langenbrunner and Ryan Kesler had the other goals for the U.S. while Eric Staal, Dany Heatley and Sidney Crosby replied for Canada. Canada outshot the U.S. 45-22. The young Americans celebrated Sunday’s victory like a Stanley Cup win. The team features just three players with past Olympic experience and has embraced the underdog role here, hoping to summon the spirit of the 1960 and 1980 teams that delivered unlikely golds in this tournament.
They’ll need Miller to continue delivering performances like this one, where he snared a Jarome Iginla shot while on his knees as the Canadians tried everything they could to get back in it.
The U.S. players mobbed Kesler behind the goal after he secured the win, lunging to knock the puck into an empty Canadian goal with 44.7 seconds left.
The pre-game anticipation for the U.S.-Canada matchup was skyhigh, with scalpers selling tickets at outrageous prices and downtown Vancouver literally at a standstill while people watched on screens around the city.
Canada Hockey Place was once again draped in red and white by a flag-waving sellout crowd that screamed until it was hoarse. The roar started well before the puck drop when gold medal moguls skier Alexandre Bilodeau was interviewed on the scoreboard and continued even after the U.S. got on the board just 41 seconds into the game.
That goal came from Rafalski after Brodeur had failed to clear the puck from his team’s end. The U.S. defenceman beat him with a screen shot that glanced off Crosby’s stick and in.
Brodeur also looked shaky when the Americans went ahead 2-1. Just 22 seconds after Staal had tied the game for Canada, Rafalski skated in from the point and beat Brodeur with a shot along the ice at 9:15 of the first period.
The Canadian team started to reclaim control of the play shortly after, dominating puck possession and generating all kinds of chances on Miller. The forwards showed more flow than they were able to generate three days earlier against Switzerland.
Heatley evened the score with his fourth goal of the Olympic tournament, slamming home the rebound off a Jonathan Toews shot at 3:32 of the second period. He punched the air in celebration while the red-andwhite mass celebrated in the stands.
Canada looked ready to put it in overdrive. The team’s skill was on full display as the big forwards controlled the puck for long stretches and used their body on the smaller American players.
But Miller was able to weather the storm and his teammates responded with a flurry of chances on Brodeur, who appeared to get rattled by a bump from David Backes just before Drury made it 3-2. The Canadian goalie was flailing around as Drury found a loose puck at 16:46 of the second period.
American GM Brian Burke has been talking about the pressure on the Canadian team for months and the guys wearing the Maple Leaf must have felt it most while trying to kill three successive penalties in the third period. Langenbrunner struck on the last opportunity, tipping a Rafalski shot at 7:09 to make it 4-2.
That was all the offence his team would need as Miller managed to shut the door once Crosby had scored to get Canada within a goal.
Notes: Wayne Gretzky, Yvan Cournoyer, Joe Sakic, Pat Quinn and Craig MacTavish were among those in attendance ... Skeleton gold medallist Jon Montgomery led a “Go Canada Go!” chant during the second intermission ... Two different women carried signs asking Crosby to marry them ... Canada entered with a 10-2-3 record against the U.S. at the Olympics, outscoring them 57-32 ... The game featured five members from both the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks ... The U.S. is the last country to win a gold medal in Olympic men’s hockey on home ice, having done it at the 1980 Lake Placid Games.