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Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Moments of the 2014 Winter Olympic Tournament

Steve MacfarlaneFeatured ColumnistFebruary 23, 2014

Ranking the 10 Most Memorable Moments of the 2014 Winter Olympic Tournament

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    Matt Slocum/Associated Press

    Canada has another gold, and the men's Olympic ice hockey results are in the books for 2014.

    There were plenty of plays to remember in a tournament that featured underdogs impressing and favorites faltering, as well as highlight-reel goals and larcenous saves.

    New heroes were born and some older ones celebrated.

    Here's our look at some of the most memorable moments of the 2014 Sochi men's hockey tournament.

Henrik Zetterberg Heads Home Early

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    Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

    Henrik Zetterberg was the leader of the Swedish squad, which had already been affected by injuries to the likes of Henrik Sedin and Johan Franzen.

    But his tournament would last just one game. After scoring the winning goal against the Czech Republic in the preliminary round, Zetterberg's herniated disc flared up, causing him to head home. The Swedish captain was devastated, telling Sweden's Aftonbladet (via Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press) the pain was unbearable:

    I just can’t play anymore here. It’s impossible. I can hardly move, the pain is incredible. It’s really sickening. I’ve been looking forward to this tournament for years and to have to leave it, I’m so frustrated.

     Zetterberg underwent back surgery upon his return home and could miss the rest of the NHL season.

Pavel Datsyuk

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Before the tournament began, many wondered if Russian superstar Pavel Datsyuk would even be able to play. A knee injury put his status in doubt in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.

    Turns out he was in good enough health to have an impact.

    Datsyuk finished without a medal, but his six points through five games were impressive.

    His two-goal performance against the U.S. in hands-down the biggest game of the group stage was something the Russians will have to cling to when considering some of their finest moments of a very disappointing Sochi Games on home ice.

    Datsyuk also scored in the shootout that was ultimately won by T.J. Oshie.

Drew Doughty Dumps Finland in Overtime

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    Bruce Bennett/Associated Press

    Team Canada defenseman Drew Doughty is stifled by a defensive system in the NHL, with the Los Angeles Kings preaching safety over style.

    In Sochi, he's been an offensive dynamo.

    No game was bigger than the preliminary round game against Finland for first place in Group B and a trip straight to the quarterfinals. Doughty rose to the occasion, scoring his team's only goal in regulation and then adding the overtime winner for good measure.

    With four goals and six points placing him among the tourney's top scorers, Doughty admitted to Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail that even he is surprised by his performance:

    I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t score like this in L.A. at all. A lot of it is just my teammates – they’re doing a great job of getting me the puck. When you play with these high-skilled forwards, all you’ve got to do is find some room on the ice and they’re going to find you, so – just trying to get my shots through and on the net.

Slovenia Scores 1st Olympic Victory

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    Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

    Latvia's Cinderella run to the quarterfinals was impressive.

    So was Slovenia's.

    The lowest-ranked country in the tournament did the unthinkable in the group stage, upsetting Slovakia—which finished fourth at the 2010 Vancouver Games four years ago—for its first Olympic win.

    That prompted Slovenia's only NHLer, Anze Kopitar, to suggest maybe people would finally stop confusing the two countries: "I sure hope they are not going to mix us up with Slovakia anymore like everybody does," he told Shawn P. Roarke of NHL.com. "We've waited for this for a long time, we have believed in this for a long, long time."

    The lads with the lime-green trim took things a step further, dumping Austria in convincing fashion to book a spot in the quarters against Sweden. 

    Slovakia...er, Slovenia...made a name for itself going forward.

Ted Nolan Makes a Believer out of Latvia, Goaltender Nearly Upsets Canada

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    Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sport

    If he was successful, it would have been one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history.

    Latvia head coach Ted Nolan had his collection of nobodies in a tie game with the Canadian juggernaut until the late stages of the third period of the quarterfinals. It was a miracle Latvia was even in the tournament in the first place, so imagine everyone's surprise to see it hanging on, hoping goaltender Kristers Gudlevskis could keep playing like Superman and pull off the unthinkable.

    Unthinkable for everyone except Nolan, who told NHL.com's Joe Yerdon before the tournament his team was capable of a miracle:

    I'm a strong believer in the ordinary guy can do extraordinary things at the right moment. We worked on it for the last two and a half years in Latvia. When I first got there, they kept telling me, 'We couldn't beat Russia, we couldn't beat Russia, we couldn't beat Russia.'

    Although we didn't play their No. 1 team, we beat their 'B' team just before I got this job (in Buffalo). That's where I was coming back from, we beat them 4-1 and they beat us in a shootout. So we're right there with them. I'm not saying we're as good as Russia, but right now I'm a strong believer in belief and if you work hard and you do the right things at the right time. Just look at 1980.

    Latvia leaned heavily on the 21-year-old Gudlevskis, who became a household name thanks to his 55-save performance. Nobody knew him before, but now everyone is talking about the Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick who's playing for Syracuse in the American Hockey League.

    Canada's starting goalie, Carey Price, was impressed by what he saw at the other end of the ice and later told reporters, via James Mirtle of The Globe and Mail: “That was one of the best goaltending performances I’ve ever seen in a long time. He played a heck of a game.”

Russia Down and Out

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    The Russians had no intention of watching the semifinal in street clothes.

    This was supposed to be their Olympics—on home ice in Sochi.

    The biggest problem is they never really showed up. Russia hit rock bottom in a 3-1 quarterfinal loss to Finland after taking a 1-0 lead.

    Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk were key components of an offense that was expected to be unstoppable.

    Worse than their flat effort on the ice was the lack of answer off it for why they played so poorly throughout the tournament. Ovechkin was a massive disappointment—with just one goal and an assist through five games—and had little to say on Russian TV after elimination (via Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail): "It sucks, what can I say. No emotions right now."

    He displayed no emotions all tournament long, unfortunately, which is why they were left in the stands.

The Price Is Right Against Team USA

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Even though it wasn't for a medal, the showdown between the United States and Canada lived up to its billing as a much-anticipated rematch from the 2010 final.

    Carey Price stole the show with a shutout.

    The Canadian goaltender was spectacular, making 31 saves to help his team get back to the gold-medal game. Despite allowing just three goals in four previous games, Price still had some skeptics based on the fact he's never played under so much pressure.

    He answered in spades.

    Even Roberto Luongo couldn't contain himself via Twitter:

    JESUS PRICE!!!!

    —  Strombone (@strombone1) February 21, 2014

Selanne Scores 2, Earns Bronze in Win over USA

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    Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

    This season has been Finland star Teemu Selanne's swan song.

    He announced before the NHL campaign it would be his final year, and the 43-year-old has looked his age at times back in North America. 

    His final international competition, however, seems to have rejuvenated him. He became the oldest Olympian to score at the men's hockey tournament and saved his finest performance for the bronze-medal game against the United States.

    The Finnish Flash scored twice against the U.S., pacing Finland to a 5-0 rout for the country's second straight bronze medal, adding to his collection of three bronze and a silver medal.

    What a way to go out.

    Selanne told Dan Rosen of NHL.com what it meant:

    I played for my first national team 26 years ago and I've been carrying this jersey with a lot of pride and love, and knowing this was going to be my last game, I couldn't really ask for more than this. It's a dream come true.

Crosby Finally Scores—and It's Another Golden Moment

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    David J. Phillip/Associated Press

    Sidney Crosby always seems to show up at just the right time.

    Even though he was one of the best defensive forwards throughout the tournament, the Team Canada captain hadn't scored a single goal.

    Then came the gold-medal game.

    With the defending 2010 Olympic champs protecting an early 1-0 lead, Crosby scored an insurance marker late in the second period on a breakaway. He patiently deked Henrik Lundqvist on the backhand and popped the puck in off the Swedish goalie's skate to essentially lock up the result.

    With that breathing room, Canada could continue to control the puck without feeling as much pressure. It was a critical turning point in the game.

T.J. Oshie's 1-Man Shootout Show

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    Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

    One of the biggest reasons St. Louis Blues winger T.J. Oshie was brought to Sochi by Team USA was his shootout prowess.

    His inclusion proved to be a smart selection.

    In what turned out to be one of the highlights of the Sochi Games, Oshie was the go-to guy for the U.S. in a 3-2 shootout win over the host Russians. In international rules, you can use any skater repeatedly after the original three shooters go—and the U.S. took advantage of that rule, sending Oshie out a total of six times.

    He scored on four of them against Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, including the winning goal in the biggest game of the preliminary stage.

    Oshie used five different moves: a wrist shot through the five-hole (twice); backhand fake and top-shelf shot; a fake snapshot deke; a fake deke and wrist shot; a deke to the right; and a deke to the left.

    U.S. captain Zach Parise told the Associated Press (via ESPN.com) he started to wonder what was left in the arsenal:

    At some point, you think, 'Does he have any more moves left? But he did a good job. ... That's hard to do, to get in a goalie's head and throw him off a little bit.

    The 27-year-old leads American-born players with seven shootout goals this season in the NHL. For his part, he was happy the showdown that featured him against Ilya Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk finally ended

    I was just thinking of something else I could do, trying to keep him guessing. Had to go back to the same move a couple times, but I was glad it ended when it did. I was running out of moves there.

    St. Louis Blues teammate and fellow Team USA forward David Backes told ESPN he envisions the Warroad, Minn., product becoming a bit of a living legend for that performance alone:

    I think you're going to see T.J. Oshie become a household name after that display he put on. The kids will be out on the pond probably in Minnesota right now, throwing a 5-hole on the goalie three or four times in a row.

    It's hard to disagree there.

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