In a simply epic battle between two hockey superpowers Saturday at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the United States defeated host Russia 3-2 in a game decided after eight rounds of a shootout. Ranger Olympians Ryan Callahan and Ryan McDonagh both played major roles in Team USA's first Winter Games victory over Russia, which was just the second time since the 1980 Miracle On Ice game (2002, Salt Lake City).
T.J. Oshie of the St. Louis Blues attempted six of the eight shots during the shootout for the United States, scoring four times including the eighth-round game-deciding goal between the pads of Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Jonathan Quick, who was beaten twice earlier in the shootout by Ilya Kovalchuk, denied Kovalchuk with a splendid sprawling save to open the eighth round of the shootout, setting the stage for Oshie's game-winner.
McDonagh ranked second on Team USA with 23:39 worth of ice time, while Callahan logged a feisty 13:51. Though neither recorded a point in the game, both were instrumental in the victory.
In a bold strategic move Team USA head coach Dan Bylsma switched McDonagh from his natural left side on defense to the more unfamiliar right side so that he could form a top pairing with veteran Ryan Suter, and that twosome helped keep Kovalchuk, Alex Ovechkin, and Evgeni Malkin all of the scoresheet.
Twice McDonagh was shaken up while blocking rockets off the stick of Ovechkin. In the first period McDonagh turned and absorbed an Ovechkin blast off his back at even strength so that Quick did not have to face the shot. Then early in the third period McDonagh challenged Ovechkin again, this time during a Russian power play, and again blocked the shot, wincing in pain afterwards, though never missing a shift.
Callahan helped set the physical tone of the game early in the opening period with a thunderous check along the boards which wiped out Ovechkin, and then later on the same shift he mixed it up with several Russian defenders during a post-whistle scrum.
Team USA killed off four of Russia's five power play opportunities in the game, and both Callahan and McDonagh played key roles on the United States' top penalty killing unit.
Russia scored first, on a pretty goal by Pavel Datsyuk 9:15 into the second period, but Team USA came right back and pulled even on a power play goal by Cam Fowler seven minutes later. In the third period the U.S. struck again on the power play — again with Alexander Radulov in the penalty box — with Joe Pavelski scoring at 9:27; but Datsyuk tied it, 2-2, with a power play goal of his own with 7:16 to play in regulation.
A couple of minutes later Russia thought they had secured a 3-2 lead when Fedor Tyutin's slap shot beat Quick, but the goal was disallowed upon video review when it was deemed the net had been dislodged from its stanchion.
Afforded a second life, the United States finished strong, played well in overtime — Patrick Kane had the best scoring chance in OT when he was denied on a breakaway at 2:43 by Bobrovsky — and then came with a dramatic victory after the hold-your-breath shootout.
By international rules, if the shootout is tied after three rounds teams are allowed to use the same player, or players, over and over until a final result is reached. Bylsma had Oshie take each of the five attempts for Team USA after the third round, while Russia only used Kovalchuk and Datsyuk after the third round.
Team USA must avoid a letdown after this exhilarating win, which came in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin, when they seek their third straight victory in these Olympics Sunday against Slovenia in their final contest of the preliminary round. Russia faces Slovakia on Sunday.
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