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Russia stunned by U.S.-T.J.

USA forward T.J. Oshie scores shoo out goal against Russigoaltender Sergei Bobrovski during overtime men's ice hockey game 2014 Winter

USA forward T.J. Oshie scores a shoo out goal against Russia goaltender Sergei Bobrovski during overtime of a men's ice hockey game at the 2014 Winter Olympics, Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. The USA won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

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SOCHI, Russia — In the beginning, it was a historic rematch, the Cold War somehow reborn on ice. In the end, it was just two points in pool play, a mere harbinger of things to come.

In between? The United States’ 3-2 shootout victory Saturday over Russia was just a hockey game. A riveting and rollicking, crazy and controversial, unbelievable and unforgettable game between two of the most talent-laden rosters in the world — superstars racing up and down the big ice, creating scoring chances, delivering big hits and playing a thriller that more than lived up to the considerable hype.

Oh, there was flag-waving and horn-blowing and crazy dressing and bilingual chanting and everything else you’d expect from the most anticipated game of the Olympics — a showdown that was dripping with history and intrigue, with Vladimir Putin looking on.

But even if this game — which kept almost ending, then somehow went on forever — had been played in a vacuum, it would’ve left its mark.

“I’m going to be in bed tonight thinking about it, and I’ll be thinking about it for the rest of my career,” defenseman Cam Fowler said.

Shootout specialist T.J. Oshie scored four times on six tries in an eight-round shootout to close out the thriller. International rules allow a coach to re-use a player after three rounds, and American coach Dan Bylsma didn’t hesitate, repeatedly sending the Blues forward over the boards and out to center ice in front of 11,000-plus fans.

“I aged a couple of years in that shootout,” Bylsma said.

Oshie, who leads the NHL with a 7-for-10 record in shootouts, slowly skated in on goalie Sergei Bobrovsky each time, showing off a vast array of moves. If not for a spectacular stick save by Bobrovsky, the game would’ve ended one round earlier.

“I was waiting to see if someone else was going, but my number kept being called,” Oshie said.

The first 65 minutes (Patrick Kane had a breakaway denied in overtime) were every bit as tense as the shootout, and just as entertaining.

The pace was extraordinary early, and things quickly got heated, with big hits all over the ice. Russia, buoyed by the overwhelmingly pro-Russia crowd — though more than a few “USA!” chants snuck in there — controlled play early, but the first period ended scoreless, if breathless.

Russia finally broke through midway through the second period, as Pavel Datsyuk split the defense and beat Jonathan Quick with a perfect wrist shot. The goal unleashed a Russian roar that shook the Bolshoy Ice Dome to its core. But Team USA got the equalizer on a power play with 3:26 left in the second period, as Fowler followed a James Van Riemsdyk shot to make it 1-1.

Joe Pavelski then scored a power-play goal off a cross-ice pass by Kane midway through the third period for a 2-1 lead. But with Dustin Brown in the box for the second time in the third period, Datsyuk evened it up at 12:44.

Then came the controversy. Fedor Tyutin appeared to have given Russia a 3-2 lead with less than five minutes to go, but the net was just inches off its mooring on one side, and the goal was reviewed, then waved off to deafening roars of disapproval.

“It definitely was a goal,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Nobody touched the net, [Quick] touched the net and pulled it out. But the referee obviously didn’t give him two minutes.”

It was only a preliminary game, and all teams advance to the elimination stage. But at the same time, it was a lot more than that.

“It was amazing,” Kane said. “I don’t think anyone could have asked for a better game.”

Email: mlazerus@suntimes.com

Twitter: @marklazerus



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