It was “Super Sunday” in the Olympics, with all top six seeds in action, but the game of the night was the match-up between the US and Canada for the 1st seed in Group A and a first round bye.
To say it was a great game doesn’t even come close to describing it. Playing in front of their home crowd, and coming off a shootout win, it was the Canadians, not the young Americans who felt the pressure early.
Just 41 seconds into the game, Brian Rafalski got a shot from the point by a screened Martin Brodeur to put the Americans up 1-0. The Canadians regrouped to tie the game through an Eric Staal goal, but Rafalski and the Americans responded just 22 seconds later to regain the lead. The goal did little to slow down the Canadian onslaught, with the home team outshooting the US 19-6 through the first twenty, but down 2-1.
In the second period, things proved to be more evenly balanced, but it was the Canadians who broke through early to tie the game at 2-2 on the back of a Dany Heatley tally. The Americans stuck to the task however, and began to generate more shots on an uncomfortable Brodeur.
They finally broke through for their third lead of the game, when Chris Drury found the puck outside the crease with Brodeur out of position, to put the Americans up once again, and finish out the second with a 3-2 lead.
The US stifled the Canadians through the first half of the third, limiting the opposition to just three shots, and further extending their lead with a Jamie Langenbrunner tip off of a Brian Rafalski shot to put the US up 4-2. The goal came on the power play, the third in a row awarded to the Americans as Canada seemed to lose control of their discipline.
The Canadians weren’t ready to give up, and when Sidney Crosby made it 4-3 on the power play with just over three minutes to go, the game was set for a big finish. Miller was called on to make big save after big save as Canada threw everything at the net. Chris Drury and Ryan Callahan were big parts of the defense, as a tiring US did everything just to keep their opponents from scoring.
The game was finally decided 45 seconds from time, when Ryan Kesler outskated Corey Perry and one handed a puck around the defender into the empty net to secure the US what would ultimately be the fist seed and a first round bye.
Sweden also secured a first round bye thanks to a second straight shutout by Rangers netminder Henrik Lundqvist. The defending gold medalist stopped all 20 shots he faced to pace Sweden to a 3-0 win, and the second over all seed behind the US.
Earlier in the day, Russia secured the third seed thanks to the play of Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, beating the Czech Republic 4-2. The Czechs fought gamely against the high powered Russians, but ultimately fell just short. The game was highlighted by a thundering center ice hit by Ovechkin on Jagr, that lead to the game’s winning goal.
Hartford lose 2-1
Fresh off their 4-2 win over the Worcester Sharks, the Pack dropped back into the loss column with a 2-1 decision against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Matt Zaba stopped 36 of 38 shots faced, but couldn’t ultimately backstop his team to victory.
In other news, the Wolf Pack released Andrew Carroll and Kevin Schaeffer from their PTOs, both of whom returned to Charlotte to help the Checkers win.