Photo credit: Clive Mason
He may not quite have the same stature as Mike Eruzione but TJ Oshie has already made himself into a hero for American hockey fans everywhere, realizing what fans of the St. Louis Blues have witnessed over the last few years.
While fans were expecting a great game between the United States and Russia this morning, few could have expected the intensity in addition to the marathon finish of what has already been the most exciting game so far in this tournament.
It was a battle of two of the game's best goaltenders: 2012 Conn Smythe winner Jonathan Quick against 2013 Vezina winner Sergei Bobrovsky. Both netminders lived up to their billing, shutting out the other team in the opening period before playing the role of penalty-killer for their respective teams. But in the second, the host Russians opened the scoring.
Shortly after the US killed off a penalty, defenseman Andrei Markov sent Pavel Datsyuk in on a partial breakaway that beat Jonathan Quick. The Bolshoy Ice Arena erupted as the host side took the 1-0 lead. But the Americans were far from out.
Not too long after, Alex Radulov, who picked up the second assist on the Datsyuk tally, took a cross-checking penalty. The US took advantage as Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler crashed the net before batting it home to tie the game. Suddenly, the intensity of the game picked up a few notches.
In the third, Radulov took another penalty and again, the Americans struck when the iron was hot. At 9:27 of the third, Patrick Kane found Joe Pavelski who one-timed it past Bobrovsky to give the US their second power play goal and their first lead of the game. But the excitement was short-lived.
Just a minute after Pavelski's goal, Los Angeles's Dustin Brown took a questionable tripping penalty. The call led to Pavel Datsyuk scoring on a screened Quick to tie the game, giving the Red Wing sniper his second of the contest.
From there, the hometown team looked to have all the momentum, and with 4:40 to go in regulation, took the lead, or so they thought. Just seconds before Fedor Tyutin's point shot put Russia in front, Jonathan Quick reached across to make a save, accidentally knocking the net off its moorings. While the net was barely dislodged, the goal was nonetheless waved off. The Americans caught a break and the game remained tied.
After Bobrovsky and Quick kept the game tied for the remainder of regulation, the game went into overtime where both netminders continued to stand tall. In one instance in the extra frame, Patrick Kane had a breakaway. Bobrovsky, though, stacked the pads keeping the game tied. Then, it went to what hockey fans everywhere both love and dread: the shootout.
TJ Oshie was the first shooter and he made no mistake, beating Bobrovsky to make it 1-0. Jonathan Quick then stopped Evgeni Malkin and Pavel Datsyuk but Bobrovsky turned away James van Riemsdyk and Joe Pavelski. It was up to former NHLer Ilya Kovalchuk to keep the shootout going and he did, beating Quick to tie the game. The shootout entered the second round.
Unlike NHL rules, should an international shootout go past the first round, teams can use the same player as many times as they want. With that said, Kovalchuk shot again for the Russians but missed. Then Oshie again but this time, he was denied. Then, Pavel Datsyuk scored to give Russia the lead. It was now up to the Americans to keep things going.
TJ Oshie needed to score to avoid the loss and he did. 2-2.
After Kovalchuk scored again, Oshie followed suit right after netting his third in four tries.
Then, Datsyuk was stopped again but Oshie, with a chance to win, was denied as well. After Kovalchuk was stopped on his chance, Oshie had another chance to win the game. This time, he made no mistake firing it under Bobrovsky to give the Americans the very hard-fought, much-deserving victory to remain undefeated at this tournament.
There were a lot of very questionable penalties called to say the least but Jonathan Quick stood tall in his cage, posing as his team's top penalty-killer. But for as much credit as Quick deserves for the win (he was justifiably named the game's second star), the man of the hour was TJ Oshie who jokingly told reporters after the game that he was running out of moves. Nevertheless, USA's No. 74 got the job done, carrying his American mates on his back when it mattered most.
Oshie's performance in the shootout brings me, as well as all Canadians, back to the 2007 World Juniors when Team Canada kept using Jonathan Toews to shoot and the Chicago prospect just kept scoring, ultimately defeating the US that game.
With the win, Team USA improves to 2-0-0 and has a chance to clinch top spot in Group A with a win over Anze Kopitar and Slovenia on Sunday (4:30am PST). If the Americans can win on Sunday, it will mean an automatic bye into the quarter-finals - and they wouldn't find themselves in that situation without this morning's huge win.
The Americans are riding high while Slava Voynov and the Russians have fallen to 1-1-0. They now hope to bounce back on Sunday against a winless Slovakian squad.