Canada defeats U.S. in overtime in hockey gold medal thriller
VANCOUVER — You can get off the top of BC Place now, Canada. No need to end it all. Your Olympics are saved. Your national pride is intact.
It's all thanks to its best player, who merely ended one of the greatest hockey games ever played with one of the biggest goals in Canadian history. In Canada, they don't believe in miracles.
They believe in Sidney Crosby.
Crosby's overtime goal gave Canada a 3-2 gold medal overtime win over the United States on Sunday afternoon and sent a nation into delirium, from the exploding streets outside Canada Hockey Place to the villages in rural Quebec.
"It's unbelievable," Canada forward Jonathan Toews said. "It doesn't get better than this. I can't imagine anything comparing to an experience like this for a long time."
Crosby's goal not only saved Canada's gold medal, it arguably saved its Olympics. The shot changed the Olympics from a luger dying and losing hockey gold on home soil to beating the Americans for hockey gold and winning an Olympics-record 14th gold medal.
The Canadian Olympic Committee's oft-mocked mantra of "Own the Podium" instead became a prophecy. Crosby's goal, on a give-and-go from Jarome Iginla 7:40 into OT, dotted the exclamation point with a red maple leaf.
"You're going to see a lot of kids now growing up wishing they were Crosby scoring in overtime and winning a gold medal," said Chris Pronger, in his fourth Olympics. "That's pretty special."
Making it special was a young U.S. team bent on a second straight upset of the gold medal-favorite Canadians. They fought back from a 2-0 deficit and punched the life right out of a nation on Zach Parise's tying goal with only 24.4 seconds left.
U.S. goalkeeper Ryan Miller continued his fabulous tournament. The Americans stole the momentum with Canada on the verge of celebration. They neutralized the best player in the game until the final second.
Team USA coach Ron Wilson, obviously disheartened and nearly bitter, said: "Sometimes the best in the tournament doesn't always win the gold medal. I thought our team played as well as any team I've ever coached."
They proved it in the final 27 minutes in regulation. Down 2-0 and fighting off roaring chants of "CAN-A-DA! CAN-A-DA!" the U.S. parted the red sea when Ryan Kesler deflected a Ryan Whitney shot under the arm of goalie Roberto Luongo with 7:16 left in the second period.
With Kesler shutting down Crosby much of the third period, the U.S. survived two Canada shots off the post and Crosby overskating a potential breakaway goal with 3:15 remaining.
Wilson pulled Miller, and the U.S. had one final charge. Patrick Kane took a shot that Jamie Langenbrunner deflected to Luongo. He couldn't smother it, and Parise put in the rebound.
"In the last two games, at times we stopped playing," said Canada coach Mike Babcock, whose team nearly blew a 3-0 lead to Slovakia in the semifinals. "We got cautious. We got careful."
And the U.S. got serious. For the first time, chants of "U!S!A! U!S!A!" drowned out the Canadians. The U.S. had the momentum and the legs over a Canadian team playing its fourth game in six days.
"It was a great moment for us to tie it up," Kane said. "We had all the momentum. Everyone was pretty pumped."
Crosby entered Sunday scoreless in his previous two games. That all changed with one flick of the wrists. He passed to Iginla and moved behind the U.S. defense, where he took Iginla's pinpoint return pass.
Crosby shot it right under Miller for the winner.
"Sidney coming up, he's a lefty there," said Miller, the tournament MVP. "He had his head down for a second, and he got his head up right when I was about to make a decision. I'd been aggressive the whole tournament. I wasn't going to change."
Crosby dashed to the corner of the ice. By the time the team and seemingly all of Canada engulfed him, Miller fell to his knees almost in disbelief, then fell flat on the ice.
"He's unbelievable," Toews said of Crosby. "There's nothing that kid can't do or hasn't done already. We were saying in intermission after the third period that someone was going to be the hero, someone was going to find a way, and there's no coincidence he's the guy."