VANCOUVER — Not hockey, too.
With the Americans already dominating the Olympic medal count, it seemed almost too cruel that the last goal of the U.S. hockey team's 5-3 win over Canada came from a man who plays for the Vancouver Canucks.
Center Ryan Kesler dived on the ice in front of a defender and managed to knock the puck into an empty net after Canadian goalie Martin Brodeur left the ice to allow his team a one-man advantage in the last minute of the most anticipated event thus far in the 2010 Olympic Games — U.S. vs. Canada in hockey.
The win wasn't for a medal. It only determines seeding in the medal round.
But it was an excruciating blow to a country that is already wondering if the millions of dollars taxpayers spent on the "Own the Podium" program was just a big waste of cash. It seems, after all, that it's the Americans who own the podium, even if Canadians are footing the bill.
"USA Hockey has come a long way," said forward Patrick Kane. "Yeah, we were probably underdogs, but we have a good mix of players."
All of the players relished not only the opportunity to make a statement about U.S. hockey, but also to play in an atmosphere that rivals most NHL playoff games.
"For us, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity to play USA vs. Canada," Kane said.
Most players credited goalie Ryan Miller (who plays for the NHL's Buffalo Sabres) for edging an aggressive, skilled squad.
"He did what we expected him to do," said Brian Rafalski, who scored two goals and makes a living playing for the Detroit Red Wings. "Hopefully, we don't need him to do it that well again."
Added Zach Parise, "He's unbelievable. He bailed us out a lot. That was a lot of fun."
Rafalski scored just 41 seconds into the game with a slap shot that bounced off Brodeur's stick. The Canadians bounced back when Eric Staal scored to tie things up. It was Rafalski at 9:15 in the first period who scored again, this time unassisted.
"He has the hot stick," said Miller, who had 45 saves to Brodeur's 23 saves.
The teams exchanged goals with no one really gaining a momentum advantage until Kesler knocked in the final score.
While the players vowed to "keep the win in perspective," Rafalski did say the victory in the much-hyped match meant a lot to the squad's younger guys.
"For these young guys, I think it was a great confidence boost," he said. "It's good for them to see that we're capable of playing any team in any atmosphere. It does set the bar pretty high for us going into the tournament."
Miller said he knows very well how much the Canadian fans were looking forward to defeating the U.S. Sunday.
"The crowd just made it more exciting," Miller said, smiling. "Walking around town the last few nights, there was some trash-talking going on. I had to bury my head when I was out walking around with my family. No, it was pretty polite trash talk, we are in Canada after all. It was like, 'Hey, there's Ryan Miller the U.S. goalie. And then his friends would gather around and say, "Go, Canada, Go!' "
In truth, Miller loves playing in front of a Canadian crowd.
"They know the game; they respect the game," he said. "I think that's what makes it great about coming here to play."
He wasn't, however, going to be gloating over the victory.
"I'm going to go get some dinner and lay low," he said grinning again. "These are all pressure games from here on out. And you never know, we might see Canada again."