5 things from Team USA-Russia
SOCHI, Russia -- Let's catch our breath after that memorable game! Holy mackerel. Won't soon forget witnessing that game at Bolshoy Ice Dome, a dramatic Team USA victory over host Russia thanks to T.J. Oshie's miracle work in the shootout. Five things from Saturday's game:
1. Terrific T.J.
I'm not a big shootout guy and certainly hope the gold-medal game isn't decided in that fashion, but, for a preliminary-round game, when nobody is going home, Saturday's skills contest was terrific drama, with the St. Louis Blues' Oshie scoring on four of his six shootout attempts. (IIHF rules allow for the same player to be used repeatedly once you're in extra attempts.) Oshie is one of the NHL's best shootout scorers, and it obviously showed Saturday. Ilya Kovalchuk scored twice and Pavel Datsyuk had another in the shootout, but in the end it was Oshie's fourth that ended things. Superb theater. And let's give Oshie some credit there, standing at center ice with a hostile crowd whistling European style at you is an intimidating spectacle. But he came through big time, and then some.
2. Null and void
Oh, boy, the Russians will feel robbed in this one, and you can't really blame them. By mere inches, what appeared to be a go-ahead goal in the third period was disallowed when replays showed the net just barely dislodged, nullifying Fedor Tyutin's goal.
3. What injury?
Pavel Datsyuk labored through Russia's opening win over Slovenia, but he was flying on this day, absolutely for my money the best player on the ice for either team, a dynamite performance like we've seen so many times over the years from the star Detroit Red Wings center. His burst of speed up the middle to open the scoring on a breakaway goal was nothing short of sensational. Maybe a dip in the Black Sea made his lower-body injury all heal up. His wrist shot to tie the score at 2-2 in the third period was also a thing of beauty. He looks fine to me now.
4. Get out the ice packs
It's as if Russia and Team USA thought the gold medal was being awarded in this game. How else to explain how players on each team were sacrificing their bodies, blocking shots, taking hits and pounding each other to no end. It was especially impressive to see how physical the Russians were, as if to prove a point. But you want to talk shot blocking? Ryan McDonagh was a shot-blocking machine, exposing himself to 100 mph blasts from five feet away. Take a bow, sir. That was impressive.
5. But not for three
A great win but not three points for Team USA, which gets awarded only two under IIHF rules for an extra-time victory. It's worth noting because it means that, if other countries such as Canada or Sweden or Finland go a perfect 3-0-0 with three regulation victories, they would get ranked ahead of Team USA with nine points in the standings. The U.S. can get to eight points with a regulation win over Slovenia on Sunday. The ranking matters when it comes to quarterfinal matchups.