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Team USA Upsets Canada in Olympic Ice Hockey

  • David Byrd

The U.S. men's ice hockey team upset host country Canada, 5-3, in a preliminary round game at the Vancouver Olympics. It is being called the Americans' biggest Olympic win since the 1980s "Miracle on Ice" victory over the former Soviet Union.

The game was only 41 seconds old when Brian Rafalski of Team USA fired a slap shot that deflected off Canadian star Sidney Crosby's stick and bounced past Canadian goalkeeper Martin Brodeur.

The Canadians evened the game on a goal nearly nine minutes into the contest on Eric Staal's shot. The capacity crowd roared its approval and the stadium announcer was still giving the details of Staal's goal when Rafalski scored again.

Canada evened the game in the second period, but American Chris Drury put Team USA ahead again, 3-2. The Americans took a 4-2 lead on Jamie Langenbrunner's shot with just under 13 minutes left in the game.

Crosby cut the U.S. lead to 4-3 with about three minutes left. Canada pulled goalie Brodeur, adding an extra attacker in a desperate attempt to tie the contest. The hosts had clearly outplayed the Americans, with a shot advantage of 45-23. But U.S. goalie Ryan Miller, frustrated the Canadians all night, including their last-ditch attack.

Then with just 45 seconds left in the contest, American Ryan Kesler reached around his opponent to slap the final U.S. goal into the empty Canadian net, making it 5-3.

The game was just a preliminary round match, but in hockey-mad Canada, it was more than that. To lose to the United States in the Olympics on home soil was devastating.

After the game, Canada fans - many in replicas of the team's red and white Maple Leaf jerseys - seemed stunned as they filed out of the Canada Hockey Place. Some Americans chanted "U-S-A, U-S-A!" But many Canadians, including Melissa Mazeman of Winnipeg, Manitoba, were still trying to realize what had happened.

"As soon as that first goal was scored within in the first minute, that did hurt, it was kind of crushing," she said. "But every U.S. player - or every U.S. fan I have seen on the street - I have said congratulations [to]."

Team USA fan David Loring of Colorado Springs, Colorado, one of a vastly outnumbered corps of fans wearing USA Hockey gear, gave goalkeeper Ryan Miller the credit for preserving the win.

"[Team USA] played really well tonight. I have to tell you, they got outplayed by Canada. We had some really good goalie work this evening. Brodeur made some nice saves, but Miller really played well tonight. That was the difference I thought."

The win is the United States' first Olympic win over Canada since 1960. It also came one day short of the 30th anniversary of the U.S. hockey win over the former Soviet Union in the 1980 Miracle on Ice in Lake Placid.

The victory assures the Americans an automatic quarterfinal berth. Canada could still make the round of eight, but must beat Germany in a play-in game Tuesday to reach the quarterfinals. In this hockey-obsessed nation, not advancing would be even more stunning than Sunday's loss.

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