Sochi, Russia -- In a dazzling display of international hockey, the United States defeated Russia Saturday 3-2, staking its claim as a bona fide contender for the Olympic gold medal.
The Red Wings’ Pavel Datsyuk scored both goals for Russia and nearly won the game in the shootout, playing before a raucous crowd in his native land.
Cam Fowler, of Farmington Hills and the Ducks, tied the game at one. It came several minutes after Ryan Kesler, of Livonia and the Canucks, helped kill of a power play with a courageous block of slapshot from the point that sent him reeling and to the bench and eventually the dressing room, with a bag of ice on his hand.
Coach Dan Bylsma, a Grand Haven native, also played key role, continually turning to T.J. Oshie of the Blues in the shootout, which is allowed under international rules.
Oshie was other-worldly, persistently taking the Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovski to his right but using a considerable variety of trickery to deceive him.
Byslma said that despite the depth of shooting talent on the roster, including Phil Kessel, Patrick Kane and Joe Pavelski, he was aware of Oshie's success, throughout his career, in what amounts to a skills competition. And Bylsma said Oshie's performance has even improved, this season, in the NHL.
"Once we got to the fourth shooter, and with the quality of moves he had, even when he did miss, we were going to ride him out," said Byslma, who coaches the Penguins and has faced the Red Wings twice in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Oshie is 7-for-10 in the NHL this season. He went 4-for-6 against Russia, Saturday.
"After his first miss, T.J went down to the other end of the bench, and I just lost him," said Bylsma, who asserted that he aged "a couple of years" in the shootout.
"I was looking for him to call him again, and he showed up at the opposite end with the defensemen.
"He eventually showed himself, and came through for us with a couple of great goals."
The game opened with enormous pace and up-and-down action, with Russian fans in a frenzy and President Vladimir Putin, a fan of the sport and keen on reasserting the sporting accomplishments of a bygone era, looking down from a box.
Datsyuk performed brilliantly. He has anticipated the Games in Russia from the time they were announced several years ago. But what is believed to be a knee injury sidelined him for most of January and against Slovenia, the first game for the Russians, he looked slow.
And so it should hearten Red Wings fans that his first goal, which opened the scoring in the game after nearly 30 minutes of blistering, up-and-down play before a frenzied crowd, resulted from considerable speed, along with anticipation.
Datsyuk looked considerably faster, contributing to the hope that his knee is sound enough to have a big impact as the Wings continue their pursuit of a 23rd consecutive playoff appearance, and with Henrik Zetterberg headed home from the Olympics with a ruptured disc in his back.
With a spurt of speed, Datsyuk took a terrific outlet pass from Andrei Markov of the Canadiens and carried it by three Americans into the zone.
His pace seemed to surprise Jonathan Quick, who remained too deep in his crease to close off all the angles.
After the game, when asked about the goal, Datsyuk was dismissive. The expectation in Russia is that their hockey players will win the gold, at home, and the Red Wings marvelous forwards politely signaled that he is keen on it, himself.
"I don't want to talk about one goal, if we lost," he said. "It doesn't matter, now."
Seven minutes later, with the Russian forward Alexander Radulov off for his first ill-advised penalty of the game, Fowler pinched from the blue line to about 15 feet from the net, found the puck and buried it.
"It was a really good feeling," said Fowler, who attended Farmington High and was a standout baseball player for the South Farmington Blues.
"The main thing was that it came at an important point in the game and resulted in a big momentum swing for the team, so I was happy about that.
"I was just in the right area at the right time."
Goal waved off
After Joe Pavelski scored midway through the third period of the continually hard-fought, briskly-played game, it was time for Datsyuk, again.
He thrilled the Russian crowd on a power play, gathering a pass from Markov, again, on the opposite point and skating toward the goal. With an effective screen set up in front of Quick, Datsyuk let go a wrist shot from about 20-feet that struck a portion of Quick's catching glove and nonetheless fluttered into the net.
With less than five minutes left, the puck was in the American goal, again. But to the intense consternation of the Russians and their fans, the referees who were from the United States and Canada called off the goal after watching video.
Several seconds before the goal, Quick had made an abrupt cross-crease push in anticipation of a save to be made and crashed against the post to his left. It is a move goalies make a number of times almost every game.
But this time, Quick’s shoulder and upper arm banged the post so hard, it came up off its mooring.
And it never went fully back down, before the defenseman Fydor Tyutin shot the puck in.
By rule, it was no goal.
Some Russians may never believe it.
"I don't know what happened there but it was definitely a goal," said Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals. "Nobody touched the net but the goalie so that the net moved.
"The referee had to see it. He should have given him two minutes," the most popular player in Russia said, of Quick.
Russian Coach Zinetula "Bill" Bilyaletdinov said he thought it was a bad call, but "we move on."
T.J. Oshie time
After a scoreless five-minute overtime period, in which Patrick Kane had a breakaway and attempted to go five-hole on Bobrovski, only to find no hole, it was T.J. Oshie time.
"I kept looking back to see if anyone else was going to go," he said. "I told some of the boys on the last couple, ‘I'm running out of moves here.'"
On the winning shot, he said, "My hands are a little tingling. My feet are a little tingling. It was pretty nerve-wracking out there."
"It's just you and the goalie. I was fortunate enough to keep him guessing."
Bylsma and several American players said it was among the very best games they had ever played.
"Yeah, it was fun," said Kesler, who grew up playing in leagues around Metro Detroit with Compuware, HoneyBaked and Little Ceasers. "Good atmosphere. It was fun to play in."
Kesler said what many thought, looking on. Despite the Russians’ awesome firepower at the forward positions, where they are enormously quick, large and adroit at scoring, increasingly as the game progressed the Americans were able to occupy more ice, have defenders right on top of the Russian players and allow Quick to keep the game in hand, while looking for scoring opportunities.
It was Kesler who sacrificed his body, helped kill a key penalty early in the second period, just before Datysuk's goal. On a slap shot from the left point, he threw himself to the ice and the puck slammed into his right glove.
He immediately went to the bench in obvious pain, put a bag of ice on the hand, went to the dressing room and returned minutes later to re-enter the game.
Kesler also was 62.5 percent on 15 faceoffs, despite hurting his hand.
"I thought we did a good job defensively," he said. "We blocked a lot of shots, we cleared second opportunities and that's why we won."