Canada Wins Gold in Hockey

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) - Rest assured, Canada, the
national honor is served.

With a flick of the wrist from The Next One, Sidney Crosby,
Canadians found Olympic redemption Sunday.
T
he pall of a luger's death, a series of embarrassing glitches,
a first half so dismal the hosts conceded the medals race, a loss
to the upstart Americans in a preliminary game.

All but forgotten.
Canada is the Olympic champion in men's hockey, and the whole
country can finally celebrate its Winter Games.

Canada survived one of the greatest games in Olympic history to
beat the Americans 3-2 in overtime and cap the host country's
record gold rush in Vancouver.

Crosby - hockey heir to Canada's own Great One, Wayne Gretzky -
won it when he whipped a shot past U.S. goalie Ryan Miller 7:40
into overtime after the U.S. had tied it with 24.4 seconds left in
regulation.

Canada's collection of all-stars held off a young, desperate
U.S. team that had beaten it a week ago and, after staging a
furious comeback from down 2-0 on goals by Jonathan Toews and Corey
Perry, almost beat the Canadians again.

With Canada less than a minute away from celebrating the gold
medal, Zach Parise - the son of a player who figured in Canada's
finest hockey moment - tied it with Miller off the ice for an extra
attacker.

The moment he scored, the groans of disappointed fans likely
were heard from Vancouver to the Maritimes. But Crosby, scoreless
the previous two games, brought back the cheers with his second
post-regulation game-winner of the tournament, a shot from the left
circle that Miller was helpless to stop. He also beat Switzerland
in a shootout during the round robin.

It was close. It was nerve-racking. It was a game worthy of an
Olympic hockey final.

Before the game, Crosby received a brief text message from
Penguins owner Mario Lemieux that said: "Good luck."

Now, Crosby joins Lemieux - whose goal beat the Soviet Union in
the 1987 World Cup - and Paul Henderson, who beat the Soviets with
a goal in the 1972 Summit Series, among the instant national heroes
of Canadian hockey. At age 22, Crosby has won the Stanley Cup and
the Olympics in less than a year's time.

Minutes after the game ended, delirious fans chanted, "Crosby!
Crosby! Crosby!" International Olympic Committee president Jacques
Rogge paused before giving the final medal to Crosby as the crowd
got even louder. Then he gestured with his right hand, calling for
more cheers for Crosby.

As "O Canada" played, the Canadian team stood shoulder to
shoulder, arms over each others' shoulders. The U.S. team stood
dejected, staring at the ice, many with their hands on their hips.

"Our team worked so unbelievably hard," Crosby said. "Today
was really tough, especially when they got a goal late in
regulation. But we came back and got it in overtime."

To win, Canada withstood a remarkable and determined effort from
a U.S. team that wasn't supposed to medal in Vancouver, much less
roll through the tournament unbeaten before losing in the first
overtime gold-medal game since NHL players joined the Olympics in
1998.

"No one knew our names. People know our names now," said Chris
Drury, one of three holdovers from the 2002 U.S. team that also
lost to Canada in the gold-medal game.

Miller, the tournament MVP, was exceptional, and Parise scored a
goal that - if the U.S. had won - would rank among the storied
moments in American Olympic history.

With less than a half minute remaining and Miller out of the net
and off the ice for an extra attacker, Patrick Kane took a shot
from the high slot that deflected off Jamie Langenbrunner to
Parise, who shot it off Canadian goalie Roberto Luongo's blocker
and into the net.

Parise is the son of J.P. Parise, who scored two goals for that
1972 Canada Summit Series team.

Three minutes before Parise scored, Kane - who also set up Ryan
Kesler's goal in the second period - knocked the puck off Crosby's
stick on a breakaway that would have sealed it for Canada.

Luongo didn't outplay Miller, but still proved he is a big-game
goalie - something he has never been previously - by making 34
saves in his own NHL arena. Luongo went 5-0 in the tournament and
4-0 after replacing Martin Brodeur following America's 5-3 win the
previous Sunday.

OK, you can exhale now, Canada. The quivers of fear created by
the loss to the U.S. and the shootout over Switzerland are gone,
replaced by the good-as-gold feeling that was a necessity for
Canada to truly proclaim these Olympics a success.

Canada won its eighth hockey gold medal and only its second
since 1952 - it beat the U.S. 5-3 in Salt Lake City in 2002. For
the United States, considered on a tier slightly below the
Canadians, Russians and Swedes when the games began, it was an
immense letdown, especially since it was the best team from nearly
start to finish. Nearly.

"It stings right now," said Miller, who made 33 saves after
giving up only a goal per game in the first five games.

"It's devastating. It was the biggest game any of us have
played in," U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson said.

Requiring the United States to beat favored Canada two times in
eight days was a monumental task; under Olympic formats used until
the 1990s, when there wasn't a true gold-medal game, the earlier
victory and the Americans' unbeaten record would have been enough
for gold. The U.S. has never won an Olympics outside the U.S., with
its two golds coming in 1960 at Squaw Valley, Calif., and 1980 at
Lake Placid, N.Y.

Unlike those games, it wouldn't have been a miracle if America
had won - but, given the opponent and the circumstances, it would
have been one of the nation's proudest moments in international
sports.

(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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