There were 10 NHL contests on the schedule Tuesday. If you chose to watch any one of them, you missed the game of the night: Team USA's stunning 6-5 overtime win over Canada in the gold medal match of the World Junior Championships.
Played at full throttle with high emotion and mistakes galore, it wasn't always pretty, but it was plenty exciting. And by the time Washington Capitals prospect
"I've heard the word 'classic' so many times with these games, it was nice to finally be on the right side of the classic," said Team USA general manager
Certainly was great for the Americans, a younger and arguably less talented group than those that have represented the country over the past few years, but one that figured out how to play as a team. They also finally learned how to deal with adversity.
This was the same team, after all, that coughed up a two-goal lead to Canada on New Year's Eve on the way to a 5-4 shootout loss. So after allowing their rivals to erase three leads on Tuesday night, including a 5-3 margin that evaporated on a pair of
Instead, they came out hard in the extra frame, getting a couple of quality chances on
As big as that goal was, the game turned for the U.S. late in the second when coach
If only Blais' counterpart had been so bold. A shaky
The Canadians, who saw their five-year hold on the crown end, expected a different fate, and maybe deserved one. After letting the Americans dictate the pace through the first 30 minutes, they dominated the second half. Other than Eberle though -- and has there ever been a more clutch goal-scorer in the history of this tournament? -- the Canadian forwards lacked the finish to bury the chances they created. It's easy to imagine a different result if so many of the country's age-eligible snipers weren't busy lighting it up in the NHL, but that's a problem with which Canada routinely has to deal.
Ultimately, though, it was more the failings of the back end that cost Canada. Allen, a St. Louis Blues prospect, never exuded the confidence of predecessors like
That's the one element U.S. sides have lacked in the past. In the end, it was the margin of difference that earned them gold.