Postgame: The Americans got big games from big players. Ryan Miller was exactly the player that Canadians have feared from the beginning. He gave Team USA the big stops that they needed and a few that he had no right making. He was under seige the final five minutes and held the fort. Brilliant. No. 1 defender Brian Rafalski came up with one of the finest games of his career. The points will stand out later on, but his consistency and calm at both ends gave Team USA the presence it needed. Ryan Suter was quieter, but just as effective.
For Canada, well, as I mentioned earlier, they still haven't advanced past the All-Star team mentality. They fired plenty of rubber on Miller, but still seem to lack confidence in each other. Martin Brodeur was fine as the night wore on, but his early shakiness put Canada in a tough hole. Wouldn't be a surprise to see Roberto Luongo get the call in the next game.
Word I'm hearing is that Canada finishes sixth and meets a very dangerous German team in the qualifying game. The winner of that contest faces Russia in the quarters.
Anyone who thinks Canadians will be heartbroken after this game? Forget it. The Russian game -- if they get to it -- is the one that matters now.
Just want to give Team USA the credit it deserves. They attacked hard early, took advantage of a pair of Canadian errors and grabbed a lead. Once they had it, they played like a team with a lead should. They were aggressive, they kept their mistakes to a minimum (especially the young blueliners who were so hit-and-miss in the first two games) and they maintained their composure. Just three minors in a such a physical game? That's an outstanding commitment to discipline.
That's it for now. We'll be back live for Team USA's quarterfinal matchup against an opponent TBD. Thanks for stopping by.
9:54 p.m. -- This from SI's Richard Deitsch. "[The Canadian fans] have stayed in their seats afterward. They are in shock. No one is leaving.'
9:53 p.m. -- Brodeur pulled with 1:06 to go, but Canada whistled for offside. Iginla just missed a glorious opportunity on a feed from Crosby.
... Another goal for Team USA. Vancouver Canuck Ryan Kesler just iced it into the empty net. 5-3 USA with 44.7 left in third.
Pretty clear that Canada was the better team on the night, but the Americans got it done when it mattered.
There it is, the final horn. Team USA seals the upset, 5-3.
9:52 p.m. -- Drury's on the ice now with the game on the line...that's why he was named to the team, guys. Canada mounting a furious assault ... the Americans can't clear the zone.
Not a power play but sure looks like it. There are 100 seconds left.
Miller makes the save of the night on a spinnerama effort by Doughty.
9:50 p.m. -- Bodies crashing the net, Miller would have an easier time seeing around Gilbert Grape's mom right now.
9:49 p.m. --Team Canada scores. Sidney Crosby in the dying seconds of the power play. Nash in the corner throws it out front to Crosby who re-directs it past Miller. With 3:09 left in a game that's now 4-3 for Team USA.
... And here come the Canadians!
9:48 p.m. -- An incredible sequence from Miller!He stymies Rick Nash driving hard to the net, then throws a desperate glove up just high enough to snag Jarome Igiinla's rebound bid. Starting to get the sense that this one is in the bag for the Americans.
9:45 p.m. -- PENALTY Team USA. Five minutes to go. Erik Johnson gets the hook for dragging down Marleau.Miller another steadfast goal line stand against Marleau.
9:43 p.m. -- Canada has Thornton, Iginla and Nash out as a forward unit. Three of their least effective players together? Makes sense. Six minutes to go and the crowd is getting restless.
... Deitsch: "The air is so out of this building that the game may as well be in Sochi. Wow."
The American defense has been sensational this period, keeping the Canadians bottled up to the outside and limiting them to just three shots through 15 minutes.
9:41 p.m. -- Perry-Getzlaf-Crosby out there on the second unit. Doing a nice job establishing a presence in the zone, but the Americans succeed in killing off the penalty. Give Perry and Crosby credit for going hard to the net ...but more to Miller for standing his ground and keeping the score at 4-2.
9:38 p.m. -- This looks to be Canada's last chance to get back in the game. Canada wins two draws in a row, perhaps for the first time in the game.
... Thornton continues to battle the puck every time he's on the ice. This is the guy that Sharks and Bruins fans both have come to know all too well.
9:37 p.m. -- Ten minutes left in the third. Team USA doing a magnificent job bottling up the Canadians as they try to get something, anything going.
... PENALTY TEAM USA. Patrick Kane hauls down Rick Nash.
... So, is there a hero ready to step up for Team Canada? Eric Staal had it going early, but has been quiet in the third. Jonathan Toews?
9:34 p.m. -- SI's Richard Deitsch puts the unofficial U.S. flag count at 65. Reports that all are waving wildly now as the upset looks to be in the making.
9:33 p.m. -- Finally cash in on the power play. Ryan Suter sends it across the ice to a wide open Rafalski for a one-timer from the point. Turns out it went off the skate of Jamie Langenbrunner, who was planted in the crease in front of Brodeur. Now 4-2 Team USA with just over 12 minutes to go.
9:31 p.m. -- Bergeron gets a rare shift on the penalty kill, skating up frontwith Morrow.
... Another goal for Team USA. do I need to say it ... Brian Rafalski again. USA leads 4-2.
9:30 p.m. -- Another penalty to Canada, the third consecutive call. Americans spent at least 30 seconds in the zone on the delayed call and had a 6-on-4 for most of it after Seabrook dropped a broken stick.
... Another American faceoff win.
9:28 p.m. -- Too many times tonight, Canadian forwards have skated past the Team USA net. Tough to score from back there. Crosby just did it now after hopping out of the box. Someone needs to go to the net and stop there to create havoc or be in position to capitalize on a rebound.
9:26 p.m. -- Team USA doing a nice job establishing control in the Canadian zone. Power play over, still 3-2 Team USA. Three blocked shots for Canada on that kill.
9:25 p.m. -- PENALTY CANADA. Sidney Crosby gets nailed for high sticking Brooks Orpik in the face. Americans go right back on the power play. This could be the game right here if Team USA can capitalize.
... Patrick Kane out there for the American power play. To this point, he's looked a little overwhelmed by the intensity of the game. Kessel out there now on the second PP unit.
9:24 p.m. -- Power play is over but the Americans continue to apply tremendous pressure. ... There's your answer: Iginla replaces Richards on the top line.
2nd Intermission: SI's Richard Deitsch on his favorite signs in the building:Canada Tastes Victory (geared at the CTV cameras), Our Game, Our Gold and the standard, Sidney, Will You Marry Me?
... Shots are 31-19 for Canada after two. Jamie Langenbrunner leading Team USA forwards with 12:55 ice time. Rafalski (no surprise) leads with 14:34 on the blueline. Ryan Whitney and Phil Kessel are stapled to the bench. RyanCallahan has just 5:52 to his credit, but I've noticed him every single shift. He's making the Canadian D pay the price, and he's had a very effective stick in his own zone.
... Morrow's earned more ice (9:01) than Thornton, Heatley, Iginla and Perry. Crosby and Nash are both a glaring minus-3 on the night.
... So, what does Mike Babcock do with his top line? Clearly not a very effective unit, even with the addition of the defensive minded Mike Richards (-2). Third period is underway.
9:08 p.m. -- And there's the end of the period, USA clinging to a 3-2 lead. As SI's Jay Clemons points out, there's a huge advantage for the swift-footed Americans to start the third with a clean sheet of ice and more than a minute of power play time on the clock.
... The quality of the ice has taken a lot of criticism over the course of the tournament, especially in the latter two games of each day. Today, the puck seems to be sitting fairly well.
9:06 p.m. -- Power play for Team USA with 54 seconds left in the period. Eric Staal gets nabbed for holding Rafalski deep in the offensive zone. Rafalski seems to be involved in every positive play for the Americans. Take out Miller and he's clearly been their MVP of the night so far.
9:05 p.m. -- Brodeur makes a HUGE stop on a Bobby Ryan breakaway. Rafalski set him free with a brilliant pass in transition from deep in the U.S. zone.
9:03 p.m. -- Goal for Team USA. Chris Drury buries a rebound as Brodeur flops around out of position. Rough shift for Pronger as he knocks over Brodeur, then fails to take out Drury before he sinks a three-foot putt into the empty net. USA leads 3-2.
9:01 p.m. -- Americans win another offensive zone draw. This isn't quite as bad as the Swiss game for Canada, but for a team that's supposed to be so powerful down the middle, they're getting lit up in the circle.
9 p.m. -- Three Canadians just collided deep in the defensive zone. Staal and Perry get the worst of it. Perry looks like he's had the wind knocked out of him. ... He's going to the dressing room. Probably just a precaution with the period winding down.
8:58 p.m. -- Haven't seen much of Phil Kessel. With the period winding down, his fresh legs might be an effective option for Ron Wilson (think Petr Klima in the 1988 Finals).
... Ryan Suter and Brooks Orpik are really struggling to handle the marauding Canadian forwards
8:56 p.m. -- Brenden Morrow has already played more than seven minutes tonight. That tops his total from either of the first two games and gives a good indication of why he made this team -- this is exactly the sort of game in which he excels. He's been dogged in his puck pursuit and consistently comes off the boards with the puck. Really impressive effort.
8:53 p.m. -- What a sensational play by Drew Doughty. Dustin Brown looked to have skated around him in the defensive zone when Doughty slid onto his stomach, and poked the puck away with his stick. ... Couple of nice chances for the Parise line, but Brodeur is back in the zone.
8:51 p.m. -- You really get the sense that any jitters Canada came into the game with are long gone. If not for the heroics of Miller, this game is a rout.
8:49 p.m. -- Halfway point of the game, shots are 23-11 for Canada ... pretty accurate reflection of the flow of this game.
8:47 p.m. -- Just don't buy that Ryan Getzlaf is anywhere near 100 percent. Seems like any time an American leans on him, he's left with a wet seat. ... JoeThornton continues to be a step slow -- consistently a second or two behind the play.
8:44 p.m. -- Americans need another big shift from the Crash Line. Need to establish that physical game to take some of the starch out of a Canadian team that's looking more confident with every shift.
8:41 p.m. -- That's why Toews was handed all that ice in the first. He's been tireless in the corners. What a shift that was.
8:40 p.m. -- Goal for Team Canada. Dany Heatley ties it up after Jonathan Toews and Brenden Morrow do a sensational job wearing down the American defense. Heatley bangs in a rebound from a foot out. Game tied at 2.
8:38 p.m. -- American Crash Line just threw down another dynamic shift. Kept the puck down low in the Canadian zone, tenderized the defense and kept a man high at all times.
8:35 p.m. -- Canada starts with the fourth line up against the Paul Stastny/Zach Parise/Jamie Langenbrunner unit.
1st Intermission: Team Canada coach Mike Babcock has to be concerned about the continued struggles of Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger. Both have been guilty of glaring turnovers (Niedermayer's led to the first US goal). Shea Weber has been Canada's best blueliner, establishing a smart physical game and making good decisions with the puck at both ends of the ice. Duncan Keith was solid. Look for him to get more time in the second.
The consenus was that Ryan Miller needed to be Team USA's best player for the Americans to have a chance to win. A .944 save percentage says he's doing his part. Still, 18 shots has to leave Ron Wilson concerned about the ability of his young defenders to contain Canada's big forwards. At least six of those chances came after the Canadians had earned ice down low. If they hope to hold onto this lead, they need to keep the Canadians to the outside -- if they can't limit the quantity of shots, they need to diminish the quality.
At least Wilson knows how to ride a winning horse. Rafalski led all skaters with 8:24 of ice time in the first. Keith led Team Canada with 8:09.
Official shot total now 19-6 for Canada.
Toews led Canadian forwards with 5:54 of ice, Crosby with just 5:14. Look for Babcock to find more ice for Sid in this period. He had live legs in the first.
Second period is underway.
8:20 p.m. -- There's the end of the first period. Shots are 18-6 for Canada but the Americans have the advantage on the scoreboard, 2-1.
8:18 p.m. -- Last minute of play in the first. Nice shift from Canada's fourth line buries the play deep in the U.S. zone.
8:17 p.m. -- Another faceoff win for the Americans in the offensive zone...this is going to catch up to Canada eventually.
8:16 p.m. -- Just noticed Joe Thornton on the ice...so far, not exactly the sort of performance from Jumbo Joe that will dispel his reputation for invisibility in big games.
8:14 p.m. -- The Americans continue to send too many men deep into the Canadian zone. Dan Boyle just exploited another one of those poor decisions with a 75-foot pass to create a quality scoring chance for Corey Perry.
8:12 p.m. -- Five minutes to go in the period and the momentum is clearly swining in favor of the Canadians. Canada's fourth line is on the ice and wreaking havoc on the cycle.
8:10 p.m. -- Another huge stop by Miller, who stones Patrick Marleau alone in the slot. The Canadians are succeeding at getting more rubber on the net. Outshooting the US 13-5 at this point. ... Prior to tonight, the Americans hadn't given up more than seven shots in a period.
8:09 p.m. -- Getzlaf/Perry/Staal may be Canada's biggest line, but they're spending most of their time on their hind ends. ... They're being dominated physically by the smaller Americans.
8:06 p.m. -- Mike Richards is back with the Crosby/Nash pair now. The line is showing some jump, pinning the Americans down low and generating a couple of scoring chances. ... The Americans are doing a dynamite job on the draw. Just won another one in the offensive zone.
8:05 p.m. -- Is Brodeur trying to do too much? The simple play there would have been to knock it down and send the puck into the corner. Instead, he bats it out of the air and sends it right up the middle where Rafalski picked it off. The goalie has been a diffrerence-maker in the early going...and for all the wrong reasons. ... 10 minutes into the first. The Americans are dictating both the physical play and the pace.
8:02 p.m. -- Unbelievable ... Rafalski scores again! Brodeur knocks a loose puck out of mid-air and fails to clear it. The puck goes right to Rafalski who skates to the top of the slot and unloads a wrister under Brodeur's outstretched pad. The goal comes 22 seconds after Staal's goal...so much for Canadian momentum. They'd had nine of 10 shots after the opening Rafalski goal. USA leads 2-1.
8 p.m. -- Goal for Team Canada! Eric Staal appears to tip in a point shot from the forgotten man, Brent Seabrook.. Looks like Jonathan Toews gets the second assist. ... That's the sort of goal Canada's been looking for since the beginning of the tournament. Game tied at 1.
7:59 p.m. -- Ryan Miller makes his first big stop of the game, stoning Patrick Marleau from two feet out. ... The Canadians are using all four of their Sharks and Duncan Keith now on the PP ... The Canadian power play is over, still 1-0 for Team USA.
7:57 p.m. -- Power play for Team Canada. Joe Pavelski for high sticking Ryan Getzlaf deep in the U.S. zone. Can the Canadians build on a strong penalty kill? ... Ryan Callahan's speed earns him a partial breakaway on the penalty kill. His shot went wide right on Brodeur.
7:55 p.m. -- Giveaway by Chris Pronger creates a glorious scoring chance for Joe Pavelski. Power play is over. One shot for the Americans.
7:54 p.m. -- The Americans are still sending their defenders in deep on the power play. Interesting choice considering that was one of the key concerns after the Norway game.
7:53 p.m. -- Four minutes in and the Americans are off to a better start than anyone could have imagined.
7:52 p.m. -- Penalty coming up to Canada. Looks like goaltender interference after Ryan Getzlaf cross-checks Miller in the face. Great chance for Team USA to open this up.
7:51 p.m. -- Crosby makes a dynamic move around Brooks Orpik and gets a sizzling bid in on Ryan Miller.
7:50 p.m. --Ryan Malone almost creates a turnover down low while Brodeur handles the puck. The goalie is looking a little nervous in the early going.
7:49 p.m. -- Worth noting that Crosby plays his best hockey when he's ticked off. Don't think that he won't be motivated by that misfortune. ... Brown-Callahan-Backes line create a sensational chance with some physical play down low.
7:48 p.m. -- Team USA scores just 41 seconds into the game. Rick Nash loses a board battle, Brian Rafalski takes the shot from the point, might have deflected off Canadian defender.... Nope, it's off Crosby's stick, and slings past Brodeur. Goal will go to Rafalski who now has the last three goals for the Americans. USA leads 1-0.
7:47 p.m. -- Patrice Bergeron starts the game on Crosby's line.
7:46 p.m. -- Scramble in front after Marty Brodeur fumbles a clear. Good early chance for the Americans.
7:45 p.m. -- We're underway! Team USA wins the opening faceoff.
7:44 p.m. -- CTV just announced that this game will be broadcast in 10 languages in Canada, including five languages of the indigenous peoples. What the other three were, besides English and French, they didn't say. Mark Mravic of SI guesses: Klingon, Elvish and Esperanto. Me, I'm guessing Na'vi.
7:39 -- No 'A' for Jarome Iginla.
7:36 p.m. -- Sidney Crosby is wearing one of the 'A's for Canada this afternoon.
7:24 p.m. -- The Americans are wearing throwback jerseys to honor the 1960 Squaw Valley gold medalists.
7:22 p.m. -- SI's Richard Deitsch was just passed by a bald guy whose face was totally painted in white with a red maple leaf on each side. Crowd is probably 85-15 for Canada.
7:20 p.m. -- Worth remembering that both Canada and Sweden, the last two gold medal winners, suffered significant losses in the preliminary round before hitting their stride.
7:19 p.m. -- In fact, there's an argument to be made that the loser of tonight's game might derive some benefit from an additional qualification game. Another chance to improve on team cohesion could be exactly what's needed to set up a successful run through the playoffs.
7:16 p.m. -- A gentle reminder to the hyper-caffeinated folks at NBC: There won't be any Canadians taking to the ledge if this game doesn't go their way. This isn't an elimination match. As American coach Ron Wilson noted, "It's a game to decide who wins the group."
7:12 p.m. -- The Canadians are on the ice.
7:06 p.m. -- Pre-game skate underway. Americans take the ice first.
6:43 p.m. -- Just received a text from a friend looking for tickets outside the rink. Prices ranging anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500.
6:40 p.m. -- Doors have opened at Canada Hockey Place and the crowds are filing in.
6:20 p.m. -- The U.S. is 2-10-3 all-time versus Canada in the Olympics. The Americans last won on Feb. 25, 1960 (2-1). Canada's most recent victory was a 5-2 decision in the 2002 gold medal game.
Pregame: Welcome to today's coverage of the Pool A finale between Team Canada and Team USA. At stake: first place in the group and a bye into next week's quarterfinals ... and just maybe some dressing room bragging rights when the NHL season resumes on March 2.
Both teams come into the contest with 2-0 records, having knocked off Switzerland and Norway. But both struggled in the process, particularly with their defensive zone play and a pronounced lack of cohesion in their key forward units. After a day of tinkering in practice, expect to see significant changes with an eye on cranking up their physical play and simplifying their offensive approach.
Three keys to the game:
1. Ryan Miller. The Americans simply can't match up with Canada in terms of firepower or depth, but they believe they have tournament's ultimate game-changer in Miller. That's not a knock on Canada's Martin Brodeur, a player who certainly has more skins on the wall, but there's no denying that Miller has an aura about him that empowers the young and confident Americans.
2. Bench management. Both teams have struggled to find chemistry up and down their rosters. We'll see some different looks tonight--the Americans will move Patrick Kane to the Ryan Kesler line, while the Canadians are sliding Mike Richards onto Sidney Crosby's unit--but we may see more than just a little juggling. Don't be surprised to see either coach shorten his bench early in order to maximize the ice time for the players that are feeling it.
3. Controlling emotions. Both sides are amped up for this contest (Ryan Kesler of Team USA went so far as to say he "hated" the Canadians) and that passion should translate into a hard-hitting contest. No doubt they both watched as a crushing Alexander Ovechkin hit changed the course of today's first contest between the Russians and Czechs. The team that does the best job of imposing their physical presence while staying out of the box should dictate the result.