“Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them” – William Shakespeare
Some rules are made to be broken, while others are made to be changed. After Team USA beat Team Russia in a shootout Saturday afternoon, you can’t blame the Russian squad for wanting the shootout rules changed. The St. Louis Blues’ T.J. Oshie scored in the 8th round of sudden death one on one with the opposing goaltender for a 3-2 US victory.
Unlike the NHL, once you pass the third round of the shootout you can use the same player as many times as you would like. US coach Dan Bylsma stuck with Oshie for every shot from the fourth round on. Twice Oshie beat Russian (and Columbus Blue Jacket) goalie Sergei Bobrovski in a do or die situation and then finished off the game when a goal would win it in the eighth round.
The game was an exciting match that evoked memories of the “Miracle on Ice” that occurred when the two teams met in the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, NY. The current US squad, made up exclusively from NHL players, is nothing like that team though. While the college kids of 1980 weren’t expected to medal, this US team is one of the favorites with Canada, Sweden, and Russia.
The game was scoreless through the first period with Bobrovski turning aside 10 shots while US goaltender Jonathan Quick stopped all 13 pucks he faced. Pavel Datsyuk broke the scoreless tie at 9:15 of the second period when he took a long outlet pass from Andrei Markov, burst through the US defense and slam dunked the puck past Quick for 1-0 Russian lead. Team USA tied it with Alexander Radulov in the penalty box for a cross check later in the period. Defenseman Cam Fowler pinched in from the right point to bang home a loose puck in front to even things up at one apiece.
Team USA took the lead in the third period with another power play goal after Radulov got sent to the box once again, this time for hooking. Patrick Kane took a pass on the far boards and threaded the needle between two Russian defenders to get the puck to the bottom of the right side circle where Joe Pavelski one timed the it past “Bob” for a 2-1 US lead. Datsyuk and Markov teamed up again though when Dustin Brown was sent off for kneeing with under eight minutes to play. With the man advantage. Datsyuk took a pass from Markov at the right point, skated to the right circle and whipped a wrister to the glove side past a screened Quick.
With the game tied at two apiece the US got a huge break when it appeared Team Russia had gone ahead. Defenseman Fedor Tuytin took a snapped one from the left point that eluded Quick with 4:40 left in regulation. But the US goaltender quickly pointed out to the referee that the net was off its moorings when the puck entered it. A video replay agreed – Quick thought the net had to be set in place for a goal to count and he was right – the go ahead goal was disallowed and the game went into overtime.
Kane had the best chance to win it when he had a breakaway midway through the extra session, but Bobrovski stood his ground and made the save. With the shots on goal 33-31 in the US’ favor, the game went to the decisive shootout.
Oshie, known in the NHL for his shootout skills, went first and beat Bobrovski for the only goal through 2 1/2 rounds. Down to their last chance, Ilya Kovalchuk fired a forehand shot past Quick on the glove side to send the game to extra rounds. Oshie and Kovalchuk were both stymied, but Daystuk scored again in the fifth round to put the pressure back on Oshie. He came through, beating Bobrovski to keep things going.
Kovalchuk beat Quick in the sixth round, which meant the US, or Oshie specifically, had to score again to go to the next round. He did just that; the centerman skated slowly towards the crease and at the last moment broke right to beat Bobrovski.
After Datsyuk and Oshie were both stymied in the seventh round, Quick came up big with a last second glove/arm save on Kovalchuk at the right post. Then it was all Oshie time; the 27-year old put the past Bobrovski for the fourth time in the shootout to end the contest, 3-2 Team USA.
The game winner
It’s not the medal round, but it was a huge win for the US since it could mean a bye later on in the tournament. Now Oshie, the one man wrecking team, and the rest of the US squad must not get caught in a trap game with feisty Slovenia Sunday morning.