Team USA’s T.J. Oshie (second right) celebrates with teammates next to Russia’s Alexander Radulov (front) and Vladimir Tarasenko (extreme left), after scoring the game winning shootout goal against Russia during their men’s preliminary round hockey game at the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic Games on Saturday. (REUTERS: Mark Blinch)
SOCHI, Russia — There was no Russian revenge in the “Miracle on ice” rematch on Saturday as the United States triumphed 3-2 following a remarkable sudden-death shootout after the teams finished level at 2-2 after overtime in a thrilling Winter Olympics preliminary game.
With Russian President Vladimir Putin among the noisy, capacity crowd at the gleaming Bolshoy Ice Dome, T.J. Oshie scored in the eighth round of an incredible shootout to end an electric heavyweight clash.
The atmosphere was fantastic and though the game was never going to be able to stand comparison with 1980 Lake Placid Olympics when a group of American college players upset the former-Soviet Union’s ‘Big Red Machine’ it will remain long in the memory, not least for the nerve-shredding shoot-out.
“I did (feel pressure) a little bit, but then the puck hits your stick and you start skating,” said Oshie, who took six of the eight shootout chances for the Americans. “It’s just you and the goalie.
“I was fortunate enough to keep Sergei (Bobrovski) guessing and Quickie(American netminder Jonathan Quick)did his great job.”
“My hands are a little tingling, my feet are tingling. It was pretty nerve-racking out there.
“We knew it would take 65 minutes and then some.”
The marquee match of the preliminary delivered in full on everything it had promised; breathtaking pace, skill, intensity, great goaltending, some controversy and plenty of edge-of-your seat drama.
Everything except a win for the hosts.
“Everything is OK, nothing terrible has happened,” said Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk. “We played well and showed our character by equalizing at the end and now we will be getting ready for the future.”
“It’s only a preliminary game, everything will be decided in the semi-final and the final.”
With the win the United States move to the top of the Group A standings with five points followed by Russia with four and Slovenia on three.
After a leisurely but uninspiring start to the Olympic tournament against minnows Slovenia, the full weight of the country’s gold medal expectations fell on the Russian team’s shoulders as the country turned its attention to a rematch decades in the making.
The Cold War tensions between the two world superpowers may have eased and the Soviet Union is no more but the hockey rivalry remains intact and, after 34 years, Russian players charged onto a gleaming sheet of ice to a thundering roar at the seething Bolshoy in pursuit of long-awaited revenge.
While no medals would be won or lost there was still enough political tension and sporting honour on the line to turn the preliminary round clash into the hottest ticket on a sunny Saturday by the Black Sea.
A scoreless opening period was played at lightning speed to a deafening soundtrack of cheers and jeers as the two teams showcased why ice hockey is one of the Winter Games marquee sports.
Pavel Datsyuk, one of just two players on the Russian roster alive when the Soviets lost in Lake Placid, scored twice in regulation while the United States got powerplay goals from Cam Fowler and Joe Pavelski to send the contest to overtime.
Both netminders needed to produce dazzling saves in the extra session to get the contest to a shootout, where Oshie too centre stage.
Regarded as a shootout specialist, coach Dan Bylsma sent Oshie out to take six of the eight U.S. chances, scoring on four.
All the more heartbreaking for the hosts was a disallowed goal in the closing minute of the third period that was waved off by referees American Brad Meier and Marcus Vinnerborg because the net was slightly off its moorings.
“I don’t know what happened there but it was definitely a goal,” said Alex Ovechkin. “Nobody touched the net but the goalie touched the net so that the net moved.
The referee had to see it. He should have given him (Quick) two minutes (penalty).”