The Olympics are where heroes are made, and T.J. Oshie just became the latest.
The St. Louis Blues forward and Warroad, Minn. native has always been strong in shootouts in the NHL, but in a league where that tiebreaker is looked at as a giant gimmick, it's not a talent that's all too heralded. But with an IIHF shootout format that allows players to shoot over and over and over and over again, coach Dan Bylsma stuck with his big gun, and it eventually paid off in a 3-2 American victory.
Oshie took an insane total of six attempts on Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky in the shootout, as Bylsma just let Oshie go round after round. Oshie had already scored on three of his previous shootout attempts but couldn't seal the win because of the heroics of Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk of Team Russia.
But in Round 8, with the game on his stick, Oshie got the job done.
Jonathan Quick set up Oshie's winner with a big Round 7 save on Kovalchuk, who had scored two goals earlier in the shootout.
Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made seven saves in the shootout and was dinged with the loss, which sums up just how cruel a fate this was for the Russians, who fall behind the United States into second place in Group A.
Russia seemed like they were in control early after a strong first period in which they largely controlled play. The United States played a physical game, but couldn't seem to keep up with the speed of the Russians, who wound up with a 13-10 shot advantage through two periods. It only seemed that close thanks to a late U.S. power play.
The Americans got back on the attack to begin the second period, but Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall and kept the game scoreless. When Russia began to push back, Max Pacioretty took a penalty on a rush by Valeri Nichushkin, which shifted the momentum Russia's way yet again.
Shortly after the United States killed the penalty, Datsyuk was sprung for a partial break by Andrei Markov, and made good with a laser that beat Quick. The crowd at Bolshoy Ice Dome exploded and the camera instantly shifted to Vladimir Putin smiling and shaking hands as if Russia had just won gold after scoring a single goal.
As you'd expect from a battle between two gold medal-contenders, the one goal lead wouldn't last, with Cam Fowler converting on the power play after Alexander Radulov, everybody's favorite former NHLer and Enigmatic Russian™, took a cross-checking penalty. The goal went off Fowler's skate, but it was ruled that there was no distinct kicking motion, and the score was tied.
Russia began the third period on the power play due to a hooking penalty called on Patrick Kane in the dying seconds of the middle frame, but they couldn't get anything going as Team USA easily killed it off.
A minute later, a tripping penalty on Dustin Brown put Russia back on the powerplay, but they could only really create one great chance, a Malkin one-timer that Jonathan Quick stopped with an athletic sliding save
After yet another undisciplined penalty by Radulov, USA captain Zach Parise created some havoc in front of the Russian net and tied up the defenseman, leaving San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski open to slam home a one-timer from Patrick Kane and Kevin Shattenkirk for the Americans' first lead of the game. Unfortunately for the USA, the lead didn't last long. Dustin Brown took a bad penalty in the neutral zone, and Andrei Markov teamed up with Datsyuk to make quick work of the American penalty killing unit.
Russia then appeared to take the lead late in the third period, but a Fedor Tyutin goal was disallowed after Quick nudged the goal cage off its moorings with his left pad. The Russians claimed after the game that Quick did it on purpose to stop the Russian offensive attack, but IIHF rules say that no matter how slight the movement of the net off its line, any goal scored shall be disallowed.
It was a huge break for the Americans, who were able to take advantage thanks to Oshie's heroics in the shootout.
The United States plays their final preliminary round game coming Sunday vs. Slovenia. The knockout stage of the tournament begins later in the week, with the USA's first game time and opponent is still to be determined.