It wasn’t quite Lake Placid and the Soviets in 1980, but that doesn’t take away from the United States’ 5-3 upset victory over the Canadians on Sunday night.
Brian Rafalski scored the first of his two goals 41 seconds into the contest, Brooks Orpik
dished out several big checks, Ryan Miller made 42 saves and the Americans held on late against a more experienced Canadian squad despite a goal by Sidney Crosby
late in the third period.
The United States victory gives them a perfect 3-0 record in the preliminary round, guaranteeing them no worse than the second seed and an automatic bye into the quarterfinal round.
Canada, on the other hand, will have to play Germany in the qualification round on Tuesday. They will need to win four straight games to capture a gold medal while the Americans only need three wins.
Orpik, who ranks among the tournament leaders with a plus-3 rating, frequently teamed with his partner, Jack Johnson, against Crosby.
Orpik and Crosby first went head-to-head when Crosby streaked down the left wing less than four minutes into the opening frame. Crosby got a hard wrist shot off on Miller, but Orpik did a great job forcing him to shoot from 25 feet away.
Later in the contest, Orpik stood Crosby up once again, and the stick of Crosby came up and grazed the face of Orpik, drawing a high-sticking penalty which the Canadians killed.
Orpik was not just tough on his NHL teammate Crosby, as he also dished out bone-crushing first-period hits on Brendan Morrow, Jonathan Toews and Joe Thornton.
Despite his team playing from behind almost the entire night, Crosby once again left everything on the ice for the Canadians and nearly brought them all the way back late in the third period with a tap-in goal which got the Canadians within 4-3.
Crosby’s goal was his second of the tournament. It gave him five points (2G-3A) in three games, tying him with Penguins teammate Evgeni Malkin
(Russia) among others at the top of the Olympic scoring list.
Following Rafalski’s opening goal, Canada’s Eric Staal, older brother of the Penguins Jordan, drew his team even, 1-1, at 8:53 of the opening period. That lead didn’t last long as Rafalski made Martin Brodeur pay for a bad giveaway up the middle of the ice with his second tally of the period 23 seconds later.
Dany Heatley tied the game for a second time 3:32 into the second period, but a late goal by the Americans Chris Drury off a scramble in front of the net gave the U.S. a 3-2 lead heading into the third period that they would never relinquish.
Jamie Langenbrunner re-directed a Rafalski shot off his skate and through the legs of Brodeur on a power play 7:09 into the final period to increase the Americans’ lead to 4-2.
Crosby had Hockey Canada Place rocking when he tapped a pass from Rick Nash under the legs of Miller from just outside the crease with 3:09 left in regulation to draw the Canadians within 4-3.
Ryan Kesler ended any hopes Canada had of completing the comeback by diving along the ice to beat Corey Perry to a loose puck and in one motion swooping it into the empty cage to provide the final score, 5-3.
The United States’ victory was their first win in Olympic play over Canada since defeating the Canadians for the 1960 gold medal. Fittingly, the Americans wore 1960 replica jerseys in this contest.
The Americans have to wait until the completion of the Sweden-Finland game later Sunday night to find out their potential matchups as the medal round begins on Tuesday.
Make sure to check Penguins Olympic Central
for all tournament rankings and qualification round matchups.