Before T.J. Oshie scored in the first round of the shootout, Saturday’s showdown between the United States and the host Russians was already set to go down as an instant classic.
The two Group A powerhouses concluded overtime deadlocked at two goals apiece, following 65 minutes chock full of eye-popping saves, timely goals, a bevy of selfless shot blocks and a couple of controversial calls for good measure.
But when Oshie again tallied in the fifth round to keep the U.S. alive, repeated that feat in the sixth round, and beat Sergei Bobrovsky for the fourth time in sixth tries in Round 8 to give the Americans a thrilling, 3-2 victory, the Warroad, Minn., native put the finishing touches on what will be remembered as one of the most entertaining games in Olympic – and hockey – history.
"I was just thinking of something else I could do, trying to keep him guessing," Oshie told the media after the victory, which upped Team USA’s record to 2-0 in the tournament. "Had to go back to the same move a couple times, but I was glad it ended when it did. I was running out of moves there."
Unlike in the National Hockey League, a player is allowed to take multiple shots following the third round of the shootout. Once the affair reached that point, U.S. head coach Dan Bylsma gave Oshie the nod every round.
"At some point, you think, `does he have any more moves left?" said Zach Parise. "… That's hard to do, to get in a goalie's head and throw him off a little bit."
Down the other end of the Bolshoy Ice Dome was Jonathan Quick (Hamden, Conn.), who nearly shined as brightly as Oshie during the shootout. The Kings netminder kept the Americans alive with a huge save on Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk in the seventh round and set up Oshie’s game-winner when he prevented Ilya Kovalchuk from finding twine.
Quick survived a scare earlier in the contest, as the Russians appeared to score with just under five minutes remaining in regulation. Officials reviewed and eventually waved off Fedor Tyutin’s tally, which would’ve put Russia up 3-2, as Quick had knocked the left post off its mooring while scrambling to make a save on a previous shot.
"I don't know what happened there, but it definitely was a goal," Alex Ovechkin said. "Nobody touched the net. Their goalie touched the net and put it out. But the referee has to see it and at least give him two minutes, you know?"
Quick’s thoughts on the play?
"You need to catch some breaks to win games," he said.
With a win over Slovenia on Sunday, the U.S. will lock up the top spot in Group A. The three group winners, along with the team with the next best record, receive byes to the quarterfinals, while the other eight squads have to battle it out in the qualifying round.
Quick doesn’t foresee the loss derailing Russia’s chances of going far in the tourney.
"Obviously, they’re the host country and there’s a lot of pressure on them", the UMass product said. "They’re a great team and they’re going to keep playing and they’ll be there toward the end. We know that."
For a U.S. team that won just one of its six games in Turin in 2006 – the last time the Olympic weren’t held on North American soil – running their record to 2-0 and defeating the host nation was certainly gratifying.
"The game lived up to the hype,” center Ryan Kesler said. "The atmosphere in the building was good. It was a great game and a great ending."