SOCHI, Russia – T.J. Oshie brainstormed while he skated to center ice, desperately trying to come up with one last move to end an epic shootout. He had already taken five shots at Sergei Bobrovsky, and the Russians were still even.
Yet Oshie was chosen for the U.S. men’s hockey team with just such a situation in mind, and the shootout specialist concocted one last clever goal to silence an arena filled with screaming Russian fans.
Oshie scored four times in the shootout and got the winner in the eighth round, leading the United States past Russia 3-2 Feb. 15 in the thrilling revival of a classic Olympic hockey rivalry.
“I was just thinking of something else I could do, trying to keep him guessing,” said Oshie, the St. Louis Blues forward. “Had to go back to the same move a couple times, but I was glad it ended when it did. I was running out of moves there.”
International rules allow the same player to take multiple shots after the first three rounds of a shootout, and U.S. coach Dan Bylsma leaned on Oshie’s array of slick shots and change-of-pace approaches to the net.
Oshie’s scored on the Americans’ first shot before taking the last five in a row, going 4 for 6 against Bobrovsky and finally setting off a celebration for the small group of U.S. fans at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
“At some point, you think, ‘Does he have any more moves left?'” U.S. captain Zach Parise said. “But he did a good job. … That’s hard to do, to get in a goalie’s head and throw him off a little bit.”
Oshie was among the final selections for the U.S. roster, and though the 27-year-old from Warroad, Minn., has never had a 20-goal NHL season, he leads all American-born players with seven shootout goals for the Blues this season.
The U.S. men are only interested in the one that all but wrapped up an automatic berth in the quarterfinals next week.
“I think you’re going to see T.J. Oshie become a household name after that display he put on,” said David Backes, Oshie’s teammate in St. Louis. “The kids will be out on the pond probably in Minnesota right now, throwing a 5-hole on the goalie three or four times in a row.”
Cam Fowler and Joe Pavelski scored in regulation for the Americans in the marquee game of the preliminary round. Jonathan Quick made 29 saves and stopped five attempts in the shootout as the U.S. improved to 2-0.
Captain Pavel Datsyuk scored two goals in regulation and another in the shootout for the Russians, who rallied from a third-period deficit in a fast-paced game played in front of Russian President Vladimir Putin and an energized home crowd. The Russians also had an apparent goal waved off with 4:40 left because Quick’s net came off its moorings.
“The U.S. team is a good team and a good test for us,” Datsyuk said. “We played good, but the result is not good.”
The shootout finish was entertaining, but the entire game was international hockey at its most compelling — and the third period was a thriller.
Pavelski scored the tiebreaking goal for the Americans on a power play with 10:33 to play, but Datsyuk tied it with 7:16 left during a Russian power play, spurring Putin out of his seat to cheer.
After review, the officials waved off Fedor Tyutin’s apparent go-ahead goal because the net was loose, incensing the Russian crowd. Quick claimed he didn’t even realize the net had come unmoored several seconds earlier.
“So it’s just, I guess, a lucky break,” Quick said. “You need to catch some breaks to win games.”
Both teams had quality scoring chances in overtime, but Bobrovsky denied Patrick Kane on a breakaway in the most hair-raising moment.
Oshie started off the shootout with a low shot between Bobrovsky’s legs, and the next four shooters missed before Ilya Kovalchuk scored in the third round. Datsyuk and Kovalchuk scored in the fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, but Oshie tied it twice in dramatic fashion.
Datsyuk and Oshie both missed in the seventh, and Quick denied Kovalchuk again before Oshie ended it.
“It was a good game, very interesting,” Pittsburgh Penguins star Evgeni Malkin said. “Two, I think, best teams played, and showed OK hockey. But shootouts is lucky.”
Although the game had little impact on the medal race in Sochi, the finish woke up the echoes of a U.S.-Russia rivalry best known for the Miracle on Ice at Lake Placid in 1980, when a team of American college students stunned the Soviet Olympic team.
The sociopolitical impact of that game is long gone, and the nations have already met three previous times in the Olympics since NHL players joined the games in 1998. Several players on both teams are teammates in the NHL, and this result only helped determine positioning for next week’s elimination games.
But the Sochi Games are extraordinarily important to the Russian players, and the arena was packed to overflowing with fans of both nations jovially posing for photos and comparing their colorful sweaters. The Russians waved hundreds of flags, blew horns and banged drums from the first moments of warm-ups.
(GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer)