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.

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