Image Map
 

USA vs Russia Game Becomes Instant Classic

Saturday, 02.15.2014 / 4:36 PM / News
By Shawn P. Roarke  - NHL.com Managing Editor
X
Share with your Friends


USA vs Russia Game Becomes Instant Classic
Saturday afternoon at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, Russia and the United States played in a great hockey game in the 2014 Sochi Olympics; an instant classic.

SOCHI -- Greatness can't be bequeathed. It must be taken.

Saturday afternoon at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, Russia and the United States played in a great hockey game in the 2014 Sochi Olympics; an instant classic.

The Americans emerged victorious, 3-2 in the shootout, but it took some high drama, sublime displays of skill, a bit of controversy, eight rounds of the shootout and a career-defining performance from American forward T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues before greatness was finally earned and rightfully granted.

Nobody that played in the game will ever forget it; none will be the same after it.

"It was awesome," said American forward Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks. "Whatever type of game you want to explain it as, it was that."

It matters not that the Americans won nothing with the victory other than an extra point in the Group A standings and a bit of pride. The U.S. team could still lose the group with a stinker against a scrappy Slovenia team Sunday (7:30 a.m. ET, NBCSN) and the hurdles in the knockout stage are almost too difficult to navigate.

The Americans beat host Canada four years ago in Vancouver in preliminary play. It was a statement game; an instant classic. A week later, the Americans were wearing silver instead of gold because Canada won the game that truly mattered.

The implications of this game will be left for history to debate. On Saturday, as another perfect day at the base of the Caucasus Mountains was punctuated by the sun being extinguished by the Black Sea just outside the Bolshoy arena, these two fierce hockey rivals captivated the eyes focused on the Olympics and wouldn't let go.

Heading into Sochi, this Group A showdown between the United States and Russia was billed as a great game, the host nation playing the biggest villain from its glorious hockey past in one of the crown-jewel buildings of the Olympic complex.

It was to be the Miracle on Ice in reverse. The Americans were sending their hot-shot team -- the defending Olympic silver medalist -- to Russia to face a host team eager to prove its merits after an embarrassing showing in Vancouver in 2010.

Vladislav Tretiak, the legendary Russian goaltender who played a central figure in the 1980 passion play in the mountains of New York, took center stage at a press conference earlier this week, banging the drum for the Russian team. The American players from that magical sporting moment were interviewed and quoted repeatedly in the run-up to this game by journalists eager to paint this prelim game as a rematch of the Miracle on Ice; a rematch on par with the "Thrilla in Manila," the third and final fight between rivals Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali.

Only these players weren't buying what was being sold for catchy headlines. For them, history was just that, history. They were ready to write their own narrative.

They did, authoring a hockey tale with enough plot twists to satisfy the harshest critic.

The Russians scored first, off the brilliance of Pavel Datsyuk, playing on a bad leg. Cam Fowler, perhaps the last defenseman selected for this team, tied it for the Americans. The United States forged ahead on a goal by Pavelski, made possible by a brilliant pass from Patrick Kane. Russia answered, again through Datsyuk, as the teams traded punches in the third period.

Then, the Russians appeared to land the knockout blow in the form of a Fedor Tyutin slap shot that rose over the shoulder of goaltender Jonathan Quick and clanged off the bar in the back of the net. Only the net was just perceptibly off its moorings, knocked loose earlier in the sequence by Quick's leg pad.

Slava Voynov, a teammate of Quick's with the Los Angeles Kings but an opponent Saturday, suggested Quick may have intentionally unmoored the net, adding a little international intrigue to the proceedings.

The Chicago Blackhawks' Kane, perhaps the most talented natural scorer on the American team, twice had the game on his stick after the disallowed goal, but could not convert either time.

The five minute four-on-four overtime finished in a blur, allowing a much-need exhale. After 65 minutes of unequalled artistry interspersed with spellbinding savagery, the contest moved to the shootout, a tiebreaker decried by its critics as a skills competition.

Nobody, however, was decrying the skills displayed in this memorable shootout. The Detroit Red Wings' Datsyuk was at his absolute Datsyukian best. Former NHL star Ilya Kovalchuk scored a shootout goal seemingly filled with impudence as he casually flipped the puck past Quick.

"I don't know how you do that," American forward David Backes said of the Kovalchuk goal, which he termed a fade-away flipper, "but I might practice that on Monday."

It was Backes' teammate, and road roommate, with the Blues who had the final say though, scoring his fourth shootout goal of the night, on his sixth attempt, to secure the victory.

He zigged one way, zagged the other, slowly; the puck on his stick almost hypnotically as he cruised toward Sergei Bobrovsky, the Russian goalie. Then, as soon as he saw an opening, he snapped his wrists violently, propelling the puck through the small opening between the goalie's leg pads.

Game over.

Greatness granted.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

WESTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 z - ANA 82 54 20 8 266 209 116
2 y - COL 82 52 22 8 250 220 112
3 x - STL 82 52 23 7 248 191 111
4 x - SJS 82 51 22 9 249 200 111
5 x - CHI 82 46 21 15 267 220 107
6 x - LAK 82 46 28 8 206 174 100
7 x - MIN 82 43 27 12 207 206 98
8 x - DAL 82 40 31 11 235 228 91
9 PHX 82 37 30 15 216 231 89
10 NSH 82 38 32 12 216 242 88
11 WPG 82 37 35 10 227 237 84
12 VAN 82 36 35 11 196 223 83
13 CGY 82 35 40 7 209 241 77
14 EDM 82 29 44 9 203 270 67

STATS

2013-2014 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Pavelski 82 41 38 23 79
J. Thornton 82 11 65 20 76
P. Marleau 82 33 37 0 70
L. Couture 65 23 31 21 54
B. Burns 69 22 26 26 48
T. Wingels 77 16 22 11 38
D. Boyle 75 12 24 -8 36
J. Demers 75 5 29 14 34
T. Hertl 37 15 10 11 25
M. Nieto 66 10 14 -4 24
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
A. Stalock 12 5 2 .932 1.87
A. Niemi 39 17 7 .913 2.39
Image Map