Sidney Crosby, Canada Claim Gold, But U.S. Earns Respect With Inspiring Olympic Run

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Sidney Crosby, Canada Claim Gold, But U.S. Earns Respect With Inspiring Olympic Run Shattered U.S. goalie Ryan Miller probably summed it up best after his team lost a 3-2 heartbreaker in overtime against Canada in the Olympic gold-medal game Sunday in Vancouver.

"We were one shot short," the downtrodden Miller told NBC.

After the USA tied the game on a gritty Zach Parise goal with 24.4 seconds left in the third to force overtime, Sidney Crosby made another strong statement that he is the best player in the world, scoring the winner 7:40 into OT on a beautiful give-and-go with Jarome Iginla. Crosby beat Miller through the five hole as Miller came out to challenge him and sent a whole country into delirium as Canada became the first team since the USA in 1980 to win gold on its home soil.

Following the game, Crosby told NBC's Joe Micheletti that winning the gold medal was just as exciting a moment as claiming the Stanley Cup last spring with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"It's gotta be right there because I always dreamed of playing for Team Canada and winning the gold medal," said Crosby, who also won gold at the 2005 World Junior Championships. "It was a lot closer than we might have expected, but [it was] an unbelievable feeling."

Crosby credited his teammates for sticking with their game and getting better as the tournament went on despite losing to Team USA a week ago in the preliminary rounds.

"I think it was a little bit tougher in the start," Crosby said of dealing with the pressure of playing in Canada. "We dropped that one to the U.S. and [won] a close one against the Swiss, but I thought our goal was to continue to get better from the start of the tournament, and I think we did that."

If not for Miller (36 saves) who was named the tournament's MVP and top goaltender, the U.S. probably would not have even been in position to fall just "one shot short."

In a very tight, defensive game, Canada drew first blood at 12:50 of the first period when Jonathan Toews scored on the rebound of a Mike Richards shot after Richards stole a pass from Erik Johnson to Brian Rafalski in front of the U.S. net. Canada then made it 2-0 at 7:13 of the second period when Corey Perry buried a nice backhanded pass from Ryan Getzlaf.

But Miller was still playing great and made save after save, giving his team a chance to come back. The USA started that comeback when Ryan Kesler scored on the rebound of a Patrick Kane (two assists) shot to make it 2-1 at 12:44 of the middle frame. The Americans kept pressing, but Roberto Luongo had an answer for every scoring chance until late in the third when, with the goalie pulled, Parise finally beat him amid a frenzy in front of the Canadian net. Jamie Langenbrunner and Kane had the helpers.

Despite losing, the American players can hang their heads high. They proved a lot of doubters wrong and helped to unite the nation around the game of hockey in a way no team has since the 1980 “Miracle on Ice” team. Yes, the USA's 2002 silver-medal run in Salt Lake City was great, but this team was a lot younger and less experienced. They had a magical run and finished it off in style, coming up just short in one of the better hockey games in recent memory.

"I think both teams competed really hard," Miller told Micheletti. "We got down in a bit of a hole there and we pushed and made it a great game. I think we gained a lot of respect," Miller said. "You know our guys came here as an afterthought with most people, and I think we started a new trend with USA Hockey."

They certainly did, and with the average age on the U.S. team at 26.5, the core and majority of this team will be back in 2014 — as long as NHL players are again allowed to compete in the Olympics. This is a squad with a solid foundation, one that should only get better. The Americans gained respect in Vancouver and they could be among the favorites to again play for gold in Sochi, Russia.

The NHL should thank this U.S. team — and the Canadians, as well — for basically serving as a two-week promotion for the league and for the sport of hockey. That was a run few sports fans will ever forget!

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