Ever since 1980’s “Miracle on Ice” at Lake Placid, NY, back when Russia was the Soviet Union, an Olympic hockey game between the United States and Russia has been an event.
Regulation time wasn’t enough. Five minutes of overtime weren’t enough. And seven rounds of one-on-one shootouts weren’t enough. Finally, in the eighth shootout round, America’s T. J. Oshie, a forward for the St. Louis Blues of the National Hockey League, put his shot past Soviet goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to give the U.S. a 3-2 victory. The American team is now 2-0 in Group A of the preliminary round, and appear to be in the driver’s seat to win that division and earn a bye into the quarter-finals.
After a scoreless first period, the Soviets colored the scoreboard first when Pavel Datsyuk, who plays in the U.S. for the National Hockey League’s Detroit Red Wings, shot a wrister past U.S goalie Jonathan Quick at the 9:15 mark of the second. A little more than seven minutes later, U.S. answered on a power-play when Cam Fowler deflected a bouncer off of his skate and into the net to make it 1-1.
The third period saw the United States take their first lead as Joe Pavelski slipped one past Bobrovsky for another power-play goal at 9:27, but three minutes later the Russians scored on their own power-play, as Datsyuk got his second goal of the game, sending a screamer past Quick at the 12:44 mark.
The game had its controversy, too. With less than five minutes remaining in regulation time, Soviet defenseman Fyodor Tyutin scored an apparent go-ahead goal. After reviewing the play, officials ruled that the net had been dislodged from its moorings before the puck crossed into it, and the goal was waved off. America had its chances too, as Patrick Kane was stoned on a breakaway in overtime, which would have ended the contest right there.
The shootout, which sees each team alternately sending a player one-on-one against the opposing team’s goalie, saw U.S. coach Dan Bylsma take advantage of an International rule that differs from the NHL: The ability to use the same player as much as you like after the first three rounds of the shootout. When both teams remained tied after the best-of-three round to begin the shootout competition, Bylsma decided to go with Oshie for the remainder of the competition. “With the quality moves he had…we were going to ride him out.” Oshie scored on four of his six shots in the shootout, firing the puck–and a final dagger–through Bobrovsky’s five-hole to secure the victory for the American team.
For those who hated to see it end, there is a good possibility for an encore. The U.S. team finishes up group play tomorrow against Slovenia before heading into the quarter-finals. With the Soviets regarded as one of the stronger teams in Olympic competition, there is a better-than-average chance that the world will get to see the two giants of international hockey face off again. Here’s hoping Putin has a strong heart.
By Chuck Podhaisky