Americans Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto were helped immeasurably by an epidemic of falls that allowed them to move from sixth after the ice dancing compulsories to second overall.
With three of the final five couples taking spills, two-time world champions Tatiana Navka and Roman Kostomarov of Russia surged into the lead. Their ability to stay upright put them 1.38 points in front of Belbin and Agosto heading into tonight's free dance. No U.S. dancers have won an Olympic medal in 30 years.
The Americans, the final duo to skate, began their passionate Latin routine while the crowd was still stunned from the fall taken by local favorites Barbara Fusar Poli and Maurizio Margaglio of Italy, who plunged near the end of their program.
"We didn't really know what happened, but we could hear oohs and aahs, so you know something happened," Belbin said. "But you have to block it out."
Fusar Poli seemed to get out of position during a lift, Margaglio lost his balance and they crashed, falling to seventh.
Marie-France Dubreuil of Canada had a brutal fall. Near the end of her routine, she was in a split with both her hands wrapped around partner Patrice Lauzon's arm. Her hands slipped and she fell hard on her right hip and knee, forcing him to the ice, too.
She doubled over in pain when they were done, and Lauzon carried Dubreuil off the ice. They slipped from fourth to sixth.
German adds another gold
ON THE TRACK: Neither snow or suspicion slowed Germany's Andre Lange.
Four years after winning a gold medal in four-man bobsled, Lange added a two-man gold to his collection, plowing Germany-1 through falling flakes. Lange and brakeman Kevin Kuske finished with a four-run time of 3 minutes, 43.38 seconds to defeat Canada's Pierre Lueders, who one day earlier accused the Germans of using illegal runners on their high-tech rides.
Lueders and his brakeman, Jamaican-born Lascelles Brown, took silver. Switzerland's Martin Annen captured bronze.
American Todd Hays, the no-nonsense, kickboxing Texan who ended the U.S. bobsled team's 46-year medal drought with a silver in four-man at the Salt Lake City Games, finished seventh - nearly one second from the podium.
QUICK HITS: Hays will have another shot at gold in the four-man race this weekend, his preferred event. The Americans haven't won a gold medal in two-man since 1936, and they've now gone without one of any sort of medal in that event since 1952.
UP NEXT: Today, women's two-man.
U.S. women shut out again
ON THE ICE: Marianne Timmer of the Netherlands won the gold medal in the women's 1,000-meter, eight years after winning the same event at the Nagano Games.
Timmer finished just 0.04 seconds in front of Canada's Cindy Klassen. Bronze medalist Anni Friesinger of Germany was 0.06 seconds behind Timmer.
Defending champion Chris Witty of the United States was never a factor and finished 27th.
Witty wasn't the only American who struggled. Jennifer Rodriguez, the bronze medalist in Salt Lake City, managed only 10th. Amy Sannes was 25th and Elli Ochowicz 32nd.
QUICK HITS: While the American men have won all three individual speed skating events, the U.S. women have been shut out of the medals.
UP NEXT: Tuesday, men's 1500m.
United States in semifinals
ON THE ICE: The United States men clinched a spot in the semifinals with a 9-8 win over Great Britain.
"We're on a good roll right now," said American Shawn Rojeski. "We want to win three more, ride off and call it a good week."
The Americans improved to 6-2 with their victory, then watched as Finland beat Italy 7-4. The Italian loss means the United States can finish no worse than a three-way tie for second; the top four teams in the nine-game round-robin earn a spot in the semifinals.
In women's play, the U.S. was eliminated from medal contention when Canada beat Italy 11-4, leaving no room for the Americans in the semifinals. The U.S. then lost 9-8 to Switzerland.
QUICK HITS: Finnish captain Markku Uusipaavalniemi is nicknamed U-15 by those who don't want to spell or pronounce his name. It represents the first letter and the number of letters in his last name.
UP NEXT FOR U.S.: Today, men vs. Canada, women vs. Great Britain.
"Zorro' anchors Italian win
ON THE SNOW: Italy's Cristian Zorzi - the man nicknamed Zorro - turned a narrow 5.6-second lead into a commanding victory, skiing brilliantly in the final leg to lift Italy to its third gold medal of the Games with a win in the 4x10km cross-country race.
Zorzi finished 15.7 seconds ahead of the silver-medal winning German team.
"When I got to the finish line, I saw that nobody was close to me," Zorzi said. "I was happy for me and for my teammates."
Sweden won the bronze. The Austrians, competing only several hours after they found themselves the target of a doping raid, finished last out of the 16 teams.
The U.S. team of Kris Freeman, Lars Flora, Andrew Johnson and Carl Swenson placed 12th.
QUICK HITS: France appealed its fourth-place finish, claiming a Swedish skier took a short cut after making a mistake on the course.
UP NEXT: Wednesday, men's and women's sprint qualifying.
Women's aerials postponed
ON THE SLOPES: Heavy snow postponed qualifying for the women's aerials, meaning American Emily Cook will have to wait two more days to make her first jumps.
QUICK HITS: Qualifying was rescheduled for Tuesday night. The men are scheduled to qualify today.
UP NEXT: Today, men's aerials qualifying.