So often, the most anticipated sporting events never end up justifying the hype. This morning's 3-2 shootout win by Team USA over Team Russia most certainly lived up to its considerable billing and then some. There were lead changes, with the Russians opening the scoring and the Americans fighting back to build a 2-1 lead by the middle of the third period. There were star turns, with Pavel Datsyuk accounting for all of Russia's regulation offense and T.J. Oshie singlehandedly winning the skills competition. There was controversy, as an apparent Fedor Tyutin go-ahead goal late in the third was waved off due to Jonathan Quick ever-so-slightly unhinging the net.
And, most of all, there was Joe Pavelski.
Oshie will deservedly grab the headlines for his four goals on six shootout attempts to win the biggest game of the men's tournament so far for Team USA but Pavelski's go-ahead goal in the third period, a one-timer on the power play off a perfectly executed cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane, set it all up. But really, the only thing surprising about Pavelski converting a power play opportunity in a huge game is that Kevin Bieksa wasn't on the ice or in the box. Here it is in all its GIFtastic glory courtesy Pete Blackburn:
Even beyond the goal, Pavelski was a force in this game with two other dynamite scoring chances, including one in the third period off yet another brilliant Kane feed that the Sharks forward just missed on his backhand. Paired with Kane in overtime, Pavelski returned the favor by setting him up for a breakaway opportunity and another chance in tight, neither of which could beat Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. Still, Pavelski was one of the most dangerous forwards on the ice in a game that involved the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin and Ilya Kovalchuk on the Russian side. Despite not being regular linemates through the first 120 minutes of this tournament, Pavelski and Kane seemed to find instant chemistry. That, along with a barrel of shootout goals from Oshie, sewed up the victory and possibly first place in the group pending tomorrow's results for Team USA.
- Only Kane received more ice time than Pavelski in this game among American forwards. Even on defense, only Ryan Suter (who logged nearly 30 minutes) and his partner Ryan McDonagh were more heavily used by Dan Bylsma than the Sharks center.
- Slava Voynov, Quick's teammate on Los Angeles, had a pretty terrific response to his NHL goaltender knocking the net off its moorings to ensure Tyutin's potential game-winner was disallowed:
Voynov on Quick dislodging the net before the Tyutin disallowed goal: "I play with him. I know that's his style." #USAvRUS
— Dmitry Chesnokov (@dchesnokov) February 15, 2014
- Speaking of the Kings, Dustin Brown is still the worst human alive. His second penalty of the game, a particularly inexcusable one committed in the offensive zone, led to Datsyuk's tying third period goal. I'm with Doug Wilson here in that he owes us all an apology.
- Ilya Kovalchuk missed the net from the slot on so many clean looks on Jonathan Quick in this game it felt like I was watching the 2012 Stanley Cup Final all over again.
- Full marks to the David Backes line (and Suter/McDonagh on defense) for largely neutralizing Ovechkin/Malkin/Semin at even-strength but it's probably time to take Zach Parise off that wing and away from a checking role. He has zero shots on goal through two games which is awfully uncharacteristic for a guy who averages nearly four a game in the NHL. Team USA will need him to be a more effective weapon going forward and that's more likely to pan out on a line with Kane and Ryan Kesler than it is while facing the opposition's best with Backes and Ryan Callahan.
FTF Three Stars
1st Star: T.J. Oshie
2nd Star: Joe Pavelski
3rd Star: Pavel Datsyuk