SOCHI, Russia – The pace was blazing. The hits had extra focus to them. The atmosphere at the Bolshoy Ice Dome was spirited, the noise constant. Whether this was leftover animosity from the days of the Cold War and the Miracle on Ice, or just the inherent urgency of a huge game in a short tournament – or most likely both – the U.S. and Russian hockey teams went at each other for a full 65 minutes at the Sochi Winter Olympics in a game that felt like an instant classic even as it was going on.
That such a compelling contest, tied at the end of regulation and a five-minute overtime, could be ended on penalty shots seemed somehow anticlimactic – until the respective skaters went back and forth, eight times apiece, before T.J. Oshie won it for the Americans, 3-2.
A raucous, sellout crowd that included Russian President Vladimir Putin watched the teams skate to a 2-2 at the end of regulation, a score that held up only because an apparent Russian goal with 4:40 left in the third period was disallowed after video review. The long blast from Fyodor Tyutin from just inside the blue line hit the back of the net, past U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick, but was waved off after a video review showed the net was off its moorings.
The goal would have stood under NHL rules, but was not goal under international rules.
The overtime period, too, failed to break the tie, with the U.S. having the best scoring chance, when Patrick Kane broke free alone. His try was stopped, however, by Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovski.
Just before the midway point of the third period, with the U.S. on a power play and the score tied, Kane sent a beautiful pass across the ice and through the Russian penalty-kill unit, reaching the stick of Joe Pavelski on the left. Pavelski beat Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovski, giving the U.S. a 2-1 lead.
A small but vocal contingent of U.S. fans, just a fraction of the sold-out crowd, cheered and rang cowbells at the goal.
Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk scored twice, the second goal tying the game late in the third period. Considered questionable to play in the tournament at all in the days leading up – because of a lower-body injury that had kept him out of a month’s worth of Detroit Red Wings games.
Oshie was among the final selections for the U.S. roster, and the 27-year-old from Warroad, Minn., was chosen for exactly this type of situation.
Although Oshie has never had a 20-goal NHL season, the hard-nosed forward has one of the highest rates of shootout success among the American-born players.
Although the game had little impact on the medal race in Sochi, the finish woke up the echoes of a U.S.-Russia rivalry best known for the “Miracle on Ice” at Lake Placid in 1980, when a team of American college students stunned the Soviet Olympic team.
The sociopolitical impact of that game is long gone, and the nations have already met three previous times in the Olympics since NHL players joined the games in 1998. Several players on both teams are teammates in the NHL, and this result only helped determine positioning for next week’s elimination games.
But the Sochi Games are extraordinarily important to the Russian players, and the arena was packed to overflowing with fans of both nations jovially posing for photos and comparing their colorful sweaters. The Russians waved hundreds of flags, blew horns and banged drums from the first moments of warm-ups.
Information from the Associated Press was used to supplement this report.
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