VANCOUVER, British Columbia - This was the best possible way to end the Olympics for Canada.
Sidney Crosby, shut down most of the tournament, wristed a shot past Ryan Miller 7:40 into overtime after the United States tied it with 24.4 seconds left in regulation, and Canada survived a tense, taut game to beat the Americans 3-2 in the men's hockey final Sunday. It capped Canada's record gold rush in the Vancouver Games and set off a national celebration.
In one of the greatest games in Olympic history, Canada's collection of all-stars held off a young, desperate U.S. team that had beaten it the previous Sunday and, after staging a furious comeback after falling behind 2-0 on goals by Jonathan Toews and Corey Perry, almost beat the Canadians again.
With Canada less than a minute away from celebrating the gold medal, Zach Parise - the son of a player who figured in Canada's finest hockey moment - tied it with Miller off the ice for an extra attacker.
The moment he scored, the sighs of disappointed fans probably could be heard from Vancouver to the Maritimes. But Crosby, scoreless the previous two games, brought back the cheers with his second post-regulation game-winner of the tournament by scoring from the left circle that Miller was helpless to stop. He also beat Switzerland in a shootout during the round robin.
It was close. It was nerve-racking. It was a game worthy of an Olympic hockey final. And, for the Americans, it was a monumental letdown.
Before the game, Crosby received a brief text message from Penguins owner Mario Lemieux that said: "Good luck."
Now, Crosby joins Lemieux - whose goal beat the Soviet Union in the 1987 World Cup - and Paul Henderson, who beat the Soviets with a goal in the 1972 Summit Series, among the instant stars of Canadian hockey. At age 22, Crosby has won the Stanley Cup and the Olympics in less than a year's time.
Minutes after the game ended, delirious fans chanted, "Crosby! Crosby! Crosby!" and IOC president Jacques Rogge gave a raise-the-roof sign to the fans before presenting Crosby with his medal.
"Our team worked so unbelievably hard," Crosby said. "Today was really tough, especially when they got a goal late in regulation. But we came back and got it in overtime."
To win, Canada withstood a remarkable and determined effort from a U.S. team that wasn't supposed to medal in Vancouver, much less roll through the tournament unbeaten before losing in the first overtime gold medal game since NHL players began participating in the Olympics in 1998.
Miller, the tournament MVP, was exceptional, and Zach Parise scored a goal that - if the U.S. had won - would rank among the storied moments in American Olympic history.
With less than a half minute remaining and Miller off the ice for an extra attacker, Patrick Kane took a shot from the high slot that deflected off Jamie Langenbrunner to Parise, who shot it off Roberto Luongo's blocker and into the net.
Parise is the son of J.P. Parise, who scored two goals for that 1972 Canada Summit Series team.
Three minutes before Parise scored, Kane - who also set up Ryan Kesler's goal in the second period - knocked the puck off Crosby's stick on a breakaway that would have sealed it for Canada.
Canada goalie Roberto Luongo didn't outplay Miller, but still proved he is a big-game goalie - something he has never been previously - by making 34 saves in his own NHL arena. Luongo went 5-0 in the tournament and 4-0 after replacing Martin Brodeur following America's 5-3 win the previous Sunday.