For Team USA it was T.J. Oshie or bust.
With the United States and Russia engaged in a shootout after a tightly-contested preliminary game, the St. Louis Blues centre took six shots, scoring four times, to lead his team to a 3-2 victory.
Unlike the NHL where players can only take one shot in the shootout, international rules allow for players to go as often as they want after the first three shooters have gone until the game is decided. So, after each team scored once through three shooters, Oshie took his team's next five shots in a row, scoring three times.
"I've never seen anything like it," said American teammate Ryan McDonagh. "I never realized he had all those moves for the shootout. He was pretty clutch. He stepped up and kept going and helped us get the extra point."
The Russians also used individuals multiple times in the shootout. Ilya Kovalchuk shot four times, scoring twice, while Pavel Datsyuk took three shots connecting once.
The United States and Russia engaged in a low-scoring, tight-checking game that looked at times like it was being played in a phone booth. Despite the 200 ft by 100 ft dimension of the ice surface, there was precious little room to manoeuvre as both clubs placed a high priority on keeping the puck out of the net rather than trying to put it in the net.
And yet, with only bragging rights on the line for two teams expected to contend for the gold medal, the game had the same feel as a Stanley Cup final encounter.
It wasn't until Joe Pavelski of the United States gave his team a 2-1 lead midway through the third period on a sweet one-timer that things opened up a bit.
Then, with American Dustin Brown in the penalty box, Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk struck on the power play thanks to a well-timed screen by teammate Alexander Radulov who took away the eyes of Team USA goalie Jonathan Quick. Suddenly what had been a marathon match turned into a dash as the teams desperately pursued the tie-breaking goal.
The Russians appeared to get it when defenceman Fedor Tyutin's rocket from the point beat Quick, but the goal was waved off because the American net was dislodged. That opened the door for the game to be decided in overtime, but neither team was able to score so it went to a shootout.
Patrick Kane of the United States had a glorious opportunity to win the game midway through the five-minute overtime period when he broke in alone, but he was turned back by Russian goaltender Sergei Bobrovski when he tried to score through the five-hole. Kane had a second scoring chance with 30 seconds remaining in OT, but failed to direct his backhander from in tight past Bobrovski.
Veteran centre Datsyuk scored a beautiful goal at 9:15 of the second period not long after Russian president Vladimir Putin entered the Bolshoy Ice Dome to watch the host hockey team tangle with the United States.
The Russian captain slithered between three American defenders and snapped a low shot to the corner of the net to beat USA goalie Jonathan Quick. Putin was clearly delighted to see his team take a 1-0 lead. The president was one of 11,678 in attendance – the largest hockey audience of the Olympics thus far.