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There were critics who questioned the selection of Rangers captain Chris Drury to the 2010 U.S. Olympic hockey team, believing that Drury's best days in the Olympics were behind him.
Nobody is questioning that decision now, after Drury scored a crucial goal late in the second period of Team USA's 5-3 win over Canada on Sunday night in Vancouver. It was the first U.S. Olympic win over a Canadian team since the 1960 gold-medal run a half-century ago.
|Rangers captain Chris Drury celebrates the goal that gave Team USA a 3-2 lead over the Canadians late in the second period Sunday night in Vancouver with Team Canada's Dan Boyle left in the crease. |
Fellow Rangers sharing in the great USA Hockey moment with Drury on Sunday were alternate captain Ryan Callahan
, who played a key role in the victory, head coach John Tortorella, an assistant coach on Ron Wilson's staff, and Bruce Lifrieri, the Rangers' assistant trainer, who is working as Team USA's massage therapist.
The victory kept the U.S. unbeaten at 3-0 in its three preliminary-round games. It also guaranteed Team USA a berth in Wednesday's quarterfinals at 3 p.m. ET and forced the host Canadians to qualify for their quarterfinal berth by playing an extra game against Germany on Tuesday.
Team USA goes into the next round of play as the No. 1 seed among the 12 teams in the tournament. Defending gold medalist Sweden, which features Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist
, finished with the No. 2 seed after its 3-0 win over Finland
late Sunday night.
Both Sweden and the U.S. were unbeatedn in the preliminary round, but since the Swedes won by three goals on Sunday, Team USA took the tiebreaker for having a better goal differential (plus-9 as compared to Sweden's plus-7).
By clinching the No. 1 seed, the U.S. will face Switzerland in Wednesday's quarterfinals. The Swiss beat Belarus 3-2 in an overtime shootout in Tuesday's qualifying round. If they win that game, the Americans would face either Finland, the Czech Republic or Latvia in the semifinals, depending on the results of games on Tuesday and Wednesday. Because of its No. 1 status, Team USA would not have to play against Sweden, Russia, Canada, or Slovakia until the gold-medal game.
Aked why had put Drury on the team before the Olympics, USA general manager Brian Burke said it was "because he's Chris Drury." Burke noted Drury's remarkable history of scoring big goals throughout his USA Hockey and NHL career and said he wanted Drury Team USA for his leadership and ability to deliver in the clutch.
Heading into the quarterfinals, it's quite clear that Burke knew exactly what he was doing.
Team USA captain Jamie Langenbrunner would go on to add the eventual game-winner on a third-period power play; Canada would cut the lead to one goal with only 3:09 remaining when Sidney Crosby redirected in a shot by Rick Nash for a power-play goal, and Ryan Kesler would ice it for the Americans with an empty-netter at 19:15.
All of that additional drama came in the third period, but it was Drury's goal with 3:14 remaining in the second that truly broke the Canadians.
Prior to Drury's go-ahead goal, Team Canada had fought back for a 2-2 tie in a game they never led. The NHL All-Star team wearing Canadian jerseys might have felt the collective pressure of their nation's hopes riding on their shoulders, as they suffered a stunning defeat against a younger, hungrier American team that simply spoiled their party.
With the scored tied 2-2 and under four minutes left in the second period, Drury was in the right place at the right time to cash in on a mistake by the Canadians.
|Rangers captain Chris Drury celebrates his second-period goal along with U.S. teammate Bobby Ryan on Sunday. Team USA beat Canada 5-3 to clinch a berth in the 2010 Olympic quarterfinal round. |
During a scramble in front of the net, Team Canada goaltender Martin Brodeur went down and could not get back into position after fending off a shot by David Backes. The rebound of Backes' shot came right back into the crease, and as Canadian defensemen fought of Backes and Bobby Ryan, Drury, the third member of the fourth line, swooped in from the right side to fire the puck into an exposed net at 16:46 of the middle period.
Playing in his third Olympics this year, Drury now has two goals, including a game-winner in three U.S. games and has played a big part in helping Team USA to its perfect 3-0 record, the preliminary-round Group A title, and automatic quarterfinal-round berth.
The other big heroes for the Americans on Sunday were defenseman Brian Rafalski, who scored two goals and assisted on Langenbrunner's game-winning tally, and goaltender Ryan Miller, who finished the night with a remarkable 42 saves in a game where Canada outshot the Americans 45-23.
Drury's U.S. and NHL teammate, Callahan, also had a tremendous game against Canada and was at his best in the closing moments with a big block against a Drew Doughty blast that might have tied the game. Both Drury and Callahan, arguably the top two defensive forwards on the U.S. team, were used in clutch situations as time was running out on Canada.
Throughout the Olympics, Drury has been seen primarily as a penalty-killer and a fourth-liner, but the inspired Blueshirt has turned back the clock in Vancouver and is delivering the sort of goals that made him so appealing to Rangers fans when he joined the team in 2007 and became captain in 2008.
As Drury's play has been sharp throughout the tournament, he has seen increased ice time. In the opening period on Sunday night, he played 3:04. In the second period, his ice time went up to 3:58 and included two shots and the go-ahead goal. In the third period, Drury's ice time soared to 7:16, giving him a total of 14:18 for the game -- a big jump over the roughly 10 minutes he played in his team's first two wins over Switzerland and Norway.
Drury was shuffled through a number of fourth-line combinations, and scored his goal with assists from linemates Backes of the St. Louis Blues and Ryan of the Anaheim Ducks. He also saw a lot of shifts on another combination with Backes and Callahan, whose ice time also increased over the course of the game, going from 2:23 over the first 20 minutes to 3:29 over the next 20, and 5:10 in the third for a total of 11:02.
Callahan also played on a line with Backes and Dustin Brown of Los Angeles as well as another line with Joe Pavelski and Ryan Malone.
Team USA went into the first intermission leading Canada 2-1 on the strength of two goals by Red Wings defenseman Rafalski, who beat his former New Jersey Devils teammate in Brodeur for both the game's first goal and a response goal that restored the U.S. lead.
Rafalski needed only 41 seconds of the first period to stake the Americans to a 1-0 lead. After a faceoff in the Canadian zone, Team USA applied a hard forecheck that led to Jamie Langebrunner picking up a loose puck along the left-wing boards and passing it back to defenseman Ryan Suter at the left point. Suter sent a pass across to Rafalski at the right point, and his blast deflected into the lower left corner of the net off the stick of Canada's Sidney Crosby.
|Playing for Team USA, Rangers alternate captain Ryan Callahan directs a shot toward a familiar target in Team Canada and New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur on Sunday night in Vancouver. |
The Canadians came back to tie it at 8:53 of the first period when defenseman Brent Seabrook's shot was deflected by Canada's Eric Staal on its way to the net. The goal was the first in Olympic competition for Staal, whose younger brother is Rangers defenseman Marc Staal
Team USA then got a big response goal from Rafalski after a broken play in the Canadian zone. Brodeur batted a puck out of midair to try to clear it, but Rafalski knocked it down at the blue line and ripped a shot that beat Brodeur into the lower right corner for a 2-1 lead at 9:15 of the first -- just 22 seconds after Staal's goal.
Anaheim's Ryan, who had shared fourth-line duty, bumped up to the third line vs. Canada, while the Kings' Brown came down to the fourth to start the game, but Ryan ended up in the fourth-line mix, too.
Callahan nearly scored at the 1:44 mark of the first when he picked up the puck behind the net and banked it off Brodeur, who fell on it before it reached the goal line. Callahan nearly scored again while killing the Pavelski penalty, as he raced the puck through the neutral zone and then had a partial breakaway in the offensive zone, but his shot was deflected away at the 6:20 mark.
Callahan's lone credited shot on goal came in the second period, when his deflection was stopped by Brodeur with just under two minutes gone in the period. Both of Drury's shots on goal, including his tally, also were in the second period.
Langenbrunner's goal, scored at 7:09 of the third period on the deflection of Rafalski's shot, appeared to be insurance at the time, but ended up as the game-winner when Crosby made it 4-3 with 3:09 to go.