As the sun rose over the Eastern Seaboard on Saturday morning, some of the best hockey players in the world were preparing for a game between the United States of America and the Russian Federation at the Winter Olympics in Sochi.
The game had been one that was circled on the calendars of these two teams and hockey fans everywhere since the start of the Olympics. And, it was not a disappointment.
From the start, the game resembled that of an NHL playoff game -- or in the context of the Olympics, a gold medal matchup -- despite this still being the early rounds of the men's hockey tournament.
The game was scoreless after the first, but there was plenty of heavy hitting and blocked shots, as well as many scoring chances for each team. Then, in the second period, the scoring began.
Pavel Datsyuk surely eased the mind of Ken Holland back in Detroit as he tries to recover from a lower-body injury when he dangled through a pair of defenders -- as Datsyuk regularly does -- to start off the evening's scoring. The Americans did not back down though, sticking through a stretch of seven scoreless minutes before Cam Fowler picked up a rebound on a powerplay to tie the game up at 1-1.
Midway through the third period, on another power play, Patrick Kane set up Joe Pavelski for a goal off a beautiful cross-ice pass in the offensive zone, putting the Americans up 2-1 over Russia. That lead did not last long though, as Datsyuk later drifted to the top of the right circle and snapped a shot past the screened Jonathan Quick.
Things became very tense with less than five minutes left in the game, as it looked like Russia had gotten the game-winning goal off a shot from the blue line. After a video review, it was shown that there was no deflection of any kind, let alone by a high stick. But, the goal was still waved off.
It left people, including me, scratching their heads. Upon further review, it was shown that the net had ever so slightly come off its moorings. The net hardly looked like it had moved from its original position; the left peg had just lifted from its slot in the ice. In the NHL, the goal would have stood. But, the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) rulebook clearly states that the net cannot be off the moorings in any way for a goal to stand.
So, the score stood at 2-2. And, it stayed that way through the rest of the period-and through the five-minute overtime period.
The game was headed to a shootout.
Surely, by now you have heard about this portion of an epic game between the United States and Russia. The rules of a shootout are a little bit different in international play than they are in the NHL. The shootout round starts off the same as in the NHL-three players from each team alternate taking shots. But, if there is no winner after the three initial rounds, the rules get dicey. Here are the rules from the IIHF website:
"If the game is still tied after three shots by each team, the GWS will continue with a tie-break shoot out by one player of each team, with a reversed shooting order. The same or new players can take the tie-break shots.
"The same player can also be used for each shot by a team in the tie-break shoot-out."
This is why T.J. Oshie, who has scored on 70 percent of his shootout attempts in the NHL this season, was able to score four of the United States' six shootout goals, and ultimately secure the win for the Americans.
After the game, Oshie was predictably reserved about his role in the win.
"We don't get the win without (Jonathan) Quick shutting the door there," he said to Pierre McGuire, an analyst on NBC Sports Network.
It didn't come easy, but the Americans surely slept a bit better knowing they could indeed beat a strong Russian team.