Much more than a quick flick went into Canada beating U.S.
March 1, 2010 10:00 AM
Chris O''Meara/Associated Press
Sidney Crosby finds a hole through the pads of U.S. goaltender Ryan Miller for the overtime goal.
By Dejan Kovacevic Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- To hear Sidney Crosby describe his overtime goal, the one that brought Canada's 3-2 triumph over the United States in the Olympic gold-medal game Sunday, it was as simple as could be.
"I just shot it," he said.
And yet, there was so much more that went into it ...
Rewind to the third period.
The Canadians, reeling to the finish line just as they did in the semifinal against Slovakia, already had allowed the U.S. to pull within 2-1, and the Americans were coming hard. But Crosby had a chance to seal it, when he sprinted loose for a breakaway against goaltender Ryan Miller.
Nothing doing. American forward Patrick Kane, whose speed matches anyone's, caught him from behind, and the puck rolled away.
"Not a good feeling," Crosby said. "And I thought about it a lot more when they tied it up."
That happened with 24.4 seconds left, on Zach Parise's dramatic pounce that made it 2-2.
And the sequence only added to frustration Crosby surely was experiencing after being held without a point in Canada's two previous games and the first 60 minutes of this one. Much of that could be pinned on linemate Jarome Iginla's inability to finish Crosby's plays, but zero means zero.
"We just couldn't get anything to go in," Crosby said. "Yeah, it was tough."
Still, the Canadians, rather than buckle, came out aggressively in the four-on-four overtime, and that included the forward pairing of Crosby and Iginla, with coach Mike Babcock clearly not willing to give up on a duo that had clicked early in the tournament.
Seven minutes in, those two were forechecking along the left boards in the U.S. zone, and Iginla chipped to Crosby, peeling back toward the blue line in a technique highly familiar to Pittsburgh fans. The puck momentarily skipped off the skate of referee Bill McCreary, but Crosby paused and maintained possession.
Thing is, that pause threw off the Americans' momentum.
As Miller observed from his crease, "It kind of spun our guys around for a second."
Crosby spun them some more when he dished the puck back down the boards to Iginla, then called right away to get it back.
"I heard him," Iginla said, smiling. "Oh, yeah, he yelled."
Iginla softly slipped the puck through U.S. defenseman Ryan Suter, who had been blanketing him, and Crosby now had a direct path through the bottom of the left circle toward Miller.
Would he make a move?
Would he dish to a trailer?
Part of what makes Crosby the NHL's most dangerous offensive force is that his various talents create so many options. And that, in turn, keeps opponents guessing.
Miller guessed, too: He thought Crosby, a left-handed shot with no real shooting angle once he received the puck from Iginla, would have to try a move. And that would require turning to his backhand.
So, Miller began to reach his stick forward for a pokecheck.
"Sid's walking out, he's a lefty there, and he had his head down for a second," Miller said. "But he got his head up as I was about to make a decision. I've been aggressive all tournament, and I wasn't going to change my game just because we were in overtime."
Next thing, the puck zipped low through Miller's legs -- right where the stick would have stayed -- and it was over.
Nearly a half-hour after the game, Crosby still did not know how he scored.
"Maybe it went five-hole," he said. "I didn't see it go in. I just heard everyone screaming. I just shot it. All I knew is where the net was."
Crosby beating Miller is nothing new: With the Penguins, he has torched the Buffalo Sabres' All-Star for four goals in as many periods this NHL season. And, of course, Crosby beating anyone is nothing new, given his 42 goals in Pittsburgh after committing to shooting more.
But that was not the goal's only familiar aspect.
"Sid likes to get that puck and try something quickly," U.S. defenseman Brooks Orpik, Crosby's Pittsburgh teammate, said. "I've seen it."
Others sounded more surprised.
"It was just so quick," Iginla said. "One second, I give it to him. Next thing I knew, it's in the net. I couldn't believe it."