While it may not be your 1980 Miracle on Ice, tonight's win over Team Canada feels very good for the members of the United States hockey team, coming in as the underdog and stunning the city of Vancouver. They knew heading in that it would be an uphill battle. They knew it would be an emotional contest, and they knew that they were not the favorites to win. However, Team USA overcame all of those factors and got the job done at Canada Hockey Place, and will now have a free ride into the medal rounds, meaning an automatic playoff berth.
It did not take very long for the U.S. to strike first as Brian Rafalski's drive from the point deflected off of Canada's coverboy Sidney Crosby to give the good guys the lead just forty-one seconds in. Eight minutes later, Eric Staal tied it up at one when he tipped home a Brent Seabrook shot past USA goaltender Ryan Miller. Once again, though, the United States would answer back, Rafalski again on a loose puck, beating Brodeur as he uncharacteristically tumbled to the ice for no apparent reason.
Just 3:32 into the second, Dany Heatley of the San Jose Sharks notched his fourth goal of the tournament and tied things up at two. With some hecticness in-between, and tremendous saves by both netminders, New York Rangers forward Chris Drury buried a rebound among a scrum of players, giving USA the edge and registering his second goal in three games. Maybe this will give the Blueshirts Captain a boost when he returns to the National Hockey League action in March.
Jamie Langenbrunner, who wears the ‘C' on his chest for both Team USA and the New Jersey Devils, scored seven minutes into the third and at that point you felt things were over. Of course, Sidney Crosby had other plans when he deflected a shot, this time into the opposing net and just like that we had ourselves a ballgame with the U.S. leading by just one, 4-3. Ryan Kesler officially put this one to bed when he leaped into the air and past Corey Perry to somehow send the puck into the empty-net. That play right there was indicative of the way Team USA played in this game. That was the prettiest empty-net tally I have ever seen.
Goaltender Ryan Miller was the main reason the Americans are coming out of this game with a win. Canada outshot USA 45-23 in the contest, and Miller had answers to 42 of them. The Sabres starting netminder made some amazing robbery saves in this game, especially in the third, but he wanted this victory more than anyone. His performance tonight could be best summed up by the word ‘ridiculous'. He was truly unbelievable tonight.
More after the Jump>>Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan both contributed to Sunday's thrilling win over Team Canada. The Canadians were given two huge powerplay chances in the third, and both times Drury and Callahan were put out there to kill them off. And then later, with only about two minutes remaining in regulation, head coach Ron Wilson had Drury out there again in a key position. That says a lot about what the coaching staff thinks about the two Rangers representatives for the United States.
Current Red Wing and former Devil Brian Rafalski is playing as if he is possessed. I knew this guy was talented, but this is some of the best hockey that I have seen him play throughout his career. Four goals in two games for a defenseman is pretty darn good if you ask me.
If there is one area of Team USA's game that has been criticized often it has been there defense. However, they were rock solid on this night. Crosby was shut down, Marleau was given nothing, Thornton did not have room to create plays, Iginla did not do much. I mean, you go down the list of names that the United States was able to keep off the board and you think to yourself that they should be able to stop any team if they can do so against Canada.
If the Americans needed anything to boost their confidence and propel them to a medal in this tournament, that confidence boost definitely came tonight with their 5-3 win over the Canadians. They now have the attention of this entire tournament and will be taken a bit more seriously. They are on top of the world right now.