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Ice Hockey: USA down Russia in Olympic thriller

T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the United States defeated Russia 3-2 in a nail-biting Sochi Olympic hockey clash

ACTION ON ICE. Russia's Vyacheslav Voynov (L) vies with US Zach Parise (R) during the Men's Ice Hockey Group A match USA vs Russia at the Bolshoy Ice Dome during the Sochi Winter Olympics on February 15, 2014 in Sochi. Bruce Bennett/AFP

SOCHI, Russia – T.J. Oshie scored the shootout winner as the United States defeated Russia 3-2 in a nail-biting Sochi Olympic hockey clash on Saturday, February 15, in the latest chapter of the two giants’ historic rivalry.

Oshie took six of eight shots for the Americans in the shootout, firing it between the legs of Russian netminder Sergei Bobrovski on the final one to clinch the victory in the preliminary round game in dramatic fashion.

Oshie’s winner came moments after Russian forward Ilya Kovalchuk had failed to score on what turned out to be his last shootout attempt.

“I guess every kid guy growing up wants to do the shootout and go out and mess around and practice it so tonight it paid off,” Oshie said.

In the other preliminary round games on Saturday, Slovenia upset Slovakia 3-1, Switzerland shutout the Czechs 1-0 and Sweden defeated Latvia 5-3.

Oshie scored on four of his six shootout shots as he went head to head with Russians Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk, who took seven of their eight shootout tries between them.

“I think you are going to see T.J. Oshie become a household name after that display he put on,” said USA forward David Backes.

“The kids will be out on the pond in Minnesota right now throwing it five hole (between the goaltender’s legs).”

Oshie is already a hit at the White House. US President Barack Obama tweeted about the American victory, “Congrats to T.J. Oshie and the U.S. men’s hockey team on a huge win! Never stop believing in miracles #GoTeamUSA.”

Joe Pavelski and Cam Fowler scored powerplay goals for the Americans with both coming while Russian forward Alexander Radulov was sitting in the penalty box.

Pavel Datsyuk had two goals in regulation for the Russians, who desperately want to win an Olympic gold medal on home soil at the 2014 Games.

The Russia-USA preliminary round match brought back memories of the “Miracle on Ice” game at Lake Placid in 1980, when a USA team made up of college players and amateurs beat the Soviet Union, who had won four consecutive gold medals.

Even though the 1980 game was not for a gold medal it is regarded as one of the greatest hockey upsets ever.

It was another emotional and high intensity contest on Saturday in front of a crowd of 11,678 at the Bolshoi Ice Dome. The atmosphere inside the arena was electric as the raucous pro-Russian crowd chanted “Ru-ssia, Ru-ssia” and waved red, white and blue flags.

Not without controversy

Russian President Vladimir Putin was also in the building, sitting in the second level next to International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach.

A USA-Russia game would not be complete without some controversy.

With the score tied 2-2 in the third period, the Russians appeared to score the winner with just under 5 minutes left, but American referee Brad Meier and his Swedish counterpart Marcus Vinnerborg disallowed the goal, even though Jonathan Quick appeared to knock the net out of place with his skate.

“The net was off,” said Quick. “I am pretty sure if that is the rule and the net is off it (goal) doesn’t count.”

The USA have now won both their preliminary round matches after beating Slovakia 7-1 on Thursday, February 13.

The Russians drop to 1-1 after beating Slovenia 5-2 in their opener.

Russia and the USA have now met four times at the Olympic Games with the Americans holding the edge with two wins, a loss and a tie.

Russia beat the USA 5-4 the last time the teams played, at the Turin 2006 Games.

Slovenia won their first ever ice hockey match at an Olympics, upsetting Slovakia 3-1 with a superb performance from NHL star Anze Kopitar.

Kopitar played more than 25 minutes, scoring the third goal for Slovenia, who are competing in their initial Winter Olympics.

Jimmie Ericsson scored the eventual game winner as Sweden won their third straight contest by rallying to beat Latvia 5-3.

Reigning world champions Sweden finished atop Group C in the preliminary round with six points while Switzerland is second with six points.

Simon Bodenmann scored a goal and Jonas Hiller made 26 saves for the shutout as Switzerland blanked the Czechs 1-0. – Rappler.com

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