VANCOUVER — Ryan Miller could do only so much.
The goalie had carried the undefeated United States into the men's hockey gold-medal game, his stellar play making the Buffalo Sabre, until this past month little-known outside of hockey fans, a household name in less than two weeks.
And he was the main reason, U.S. wing Ryan Callahan said, the finale against Canada was tied at 2 and headed into overtime Sunday.
But 7:40 into the extra period, he had coming at him the Canadian player Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman says has "a little destiny to him." Sidney Crosby took a pass, flicked his wrists and found a hole in Miller's pads to give Canada not only a gold medal, but a victory in perhaps the most important game in the history of the hockey-obsessed nation.
"It doesn't feel real. It feels like a dream. It just feels like dream," Crosby said.
As he was swarmed by teammates on the ice and the red-clad crowd of 18,000-plus went wild, Miller dropped to a knee and then fell forward. He stayed down for several moments until it was time to head to the bench.
"It stings right now," said Miller, who made 36 saves after giving up an average of a goal per game in the first five games and was named the tournament's MVP. "We got ourselves in a position to win from two goals down. … I was happy, proud, the way I handled myself these two weeks."
His teammates were proud of him, too. "There's no chance we're here without the way he played the whole tournament," forward Chris Drury of the Rangers said. "It's heartbreaking to lose in OT of a gold-medal game, but he should be proud of everything he did the last two weeks."
As unlikely a hero for the Americans that Miller was thought of before the Games, Crosby, 22, was expected to be one for Canada. Long ago anointed the Next Great One, he already has won the NHL scoring title and MVP award, and last year he became the youngest captain to lead his team, the Penguins, to the Stanley Cup.
He was shut down for most of the tournament, but Canadians most likely assumed he would, in this moment, give them this gold.
"He's unbelievable. There's nothing that kid can't do or hasn't done already," said forward Jonathan Toews, all of 21 himself, who scored Canada's first goal. "We were saying after the third period that someone was going to be the hero, someone was going to find a way to do it for us, and it's no coincidence he was the guy."
The game went into OT because a desperate U.S. team that had beaten Canada a week ago staged a furious comeback after Canadian goals by the Blackhawks' Toews and the Ducks' Corey Perry.
With the score 2-1 after a second-period U.S. goal by the Canucks' Ryan Kesler, Canada was less than a minute from celebrating the gold medal. But with less than a half-minute remaining and Miller off the ice for an extra attacker, the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane took a shot from the high slot that deflected off the Devils' Jamie Langenbrunner to the Devils' Zach Parise, who shot it off goalie Roberto Luongo's blocker and into the net.
"Scoring a goal with 20-something seconds left shows the character in this room," said Langenbrunner, the team's captain. "The guys had a never-give-up attitude. What can you do?"
In overtime, Miller made several good stops as the teams pressured back and forth. Then Jarome Iginla got the puck in the corner to the goalie's right.
With defensemen bearing down, the Flames wing flashed a pass to Crosby, "who was … yelling pretty urgently. There's different phases of yell," Iginla said, chuckling. "You can tell he had a step."
"I remember calling for the puck from Iggy," Crosby said, "and he kind of poked it to me. I just shot it. I didn't really even look. I just kind of threw it on the net.
"I didn't see it go in the net. I just heard everyone screaming."
With the fans screaming, flashbulbs popping, a horn bellowing, the P.A. system blaring a Journey tune and his teammates racing to join him, Crosby flung away his gloves, tossed his mouthpiece, raised his arms and began a series of bear hugs that went on for more than five minutes.
Meanwhile, suddenly silver medalists, the Americans dropped dejectedly to their knees or leaned against their sticks after their first defeat in six matches.
"I think both teams are winners, and maybe more than anything hockey in general won," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said. "It's just a shame that both teams couldn't have received a gold medal.
"A great player made a great play and found a way to finish us off."
First Period—1, Canada, Jonathan Toews (Mike Richards), 12:50. Penalties—Bobby Ryan, United States (tripping), 14:02.
Second Period—2, Canada, Corey Perry (Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith), 7:13. 3, United States, Ryan Kesler (Patrick Kane), 12:44. Penalties—Ryan Malone, United States (High Sticking), 2:33; Eric Staal, Canada (Interference), 4:41; Jonathan Toews, Canada (tripping), 8:25.
Third Period—4, United States, Zach Parise (Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrick Kane), 19:35. Penalties—No penalties.
Overtime—5, Canada, Sidney Crosby (Jarome Iginla), 7:40. Penalties—No penalties.
Shots on Goal—Canada 10-15-7-7—39. United States 8-15-9-4—36. Goalies—United States, Ryan Miller. Canada, Roberto Luongo. United States, Ryan Miller, 59:35.