No miracle — but still big upset

U.S. beats Canada 5-3

It was only a preliminary game. There were no medals on the line when the U.S. men's hockey team played Canada in Vancouver on Sunday night, only first place in Group A and a bye into the quarterfinal round of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

But you couldn't tell that by the hockey on display at Canada Hockey Place. The Americans and Canadians waged a desperate battle in front of a frenzied crowd. Three separate times the United States took the lead before finally surviving a late blitz by Canada over the final three minutes. In the end, the Americans escaped with a dramatic 5-3 victory.

USA-Canada notes

» Defenseman Brian Rafalski opened the scoring 41 seconds into the contest and scored again later in the period. He now has four goals in three games for the United States.

» Rafalski, Team USA’s oldest player at 36, has four goals in 57 games for the Detroit Red Wings this season.

» Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur stopped just 18 of 22 shots.

Jamie Langenbrunner scored with 12:51 left in the third period to give the Americans a 4-2 lead, and Ryan Kesler tracked down a loose puck in the final minute, slapping it into the empty Canadian net to secure the win.

This wasn't exactly the Miracle on Ice of 1980. The entire U.S. roster, after all, plays in the NHL, and it has plenty of star power of its own. But Canada, playing on home ice, was the tournament favorite and expected to win Group A. Instead, the Americans won all three of their games in pool play and earned the bye. Canada will have to play a first-round playoff game Tuesday.

U.S. goalie Ryan Miller made his team's lead stand up despite Canada outshooting it 45-23. Down 4-2, a puck deflected off star forward Sidney Crosby and past Miller at 16:51 for a power-play goal. That set up a furious final three minutes as the Canadians pushed for the tying score. Miller faced a virtual shooting gallery as Canada fired pucks at him from everywhere. But the Canadians couldn't quite push one home, and a hustling Kesler finished off the game with his empty-netter.

“It is Canada and the U.S.,” Miller told NBC after the game. “But we're happy to get the win and get the extra day to rest up because that was a hard fought game.”

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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