Patrick Roy was nearly impenetrable, Canada was indomitable. And the United States, unable to recapture its World Cup magic, could be in for a short stay in the first Olympic hockey dream tournament.
Roy, inexplicably left off the World Cup team when Canada lost to the Americans 17 months ago, made 30 saves Monday, and the Canadians won 4-1 to go unbeaten in round-robin play.
"I've said this could be a tournament where a goaltender can make all the difference in the world," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said, "and you saw that today."
Recognized as the NHL's best clutch goaltender, Roy was at his best during a first-period two-man U.S. power play, turning aside two point-blank shots each by Brett Hull, Brian Leetch and Chris Chelios during the 1:40 span.
Rob Zamuner then scored on perfect passes by Wayne Gretzky and Joe Sakic, and the Canadians went on to an emotional victory over their archrivals.
"We did a great job defensively, made a big kill when it was 5-on-3," said Roy, who has won three Stanley Cups. "My focus was there right off the start. I knew I was going to have a good game."
Roy wasn't beaten until Hull scored with 5:56 to play as Canada (3-0), seeking its first Olympic gold medal since 1952, won its four-team group and will play the last-place squad from the other group in Wednesday's single-elimination quarterfinals. The Canadians were Olympic runners-up in 1992 and 1994 before their NHL stars were made available to play.
"We wanted to give ourselves a game against the number four team from the other division and we did that," Canada captain Eric Lindros said. "We just want to keep building, keep building, keep building."
The United States (1-2), considered a co-favorite because of its stunning victory over Canada in the '96 World Cup, will likely finish third and play either Russia or the Czech Republic. The Americans will have to defeat three outstanding teams, including perhaps Canada again, to win Olympic gold for the first time since 1980.
"You'd like to win every game. Canada has. We haven't," Wilson said. "But the most important game is in two days."
Asked if his team was panicking, U.S. captain Chris Chelios said: "I wouldn't say that. But now there's a sense of urgency."
While the game wasn't crucial because all eight teams will advance from round-robin play to the quarterfinals, it had plenty of meaning for the participants.
Several players on the teams genuinely dislike each other. And the Canadians don't think U.S. defenseman Gary Suter should be allowed to play because he is under NHL suspension for a high cross-check to Paul Kariya in a league game Feb. 1. The hit gave Kariya a concussion and kept the All-Star forward out of the Olympics.
"There's definitely a rivalry there, but I don't know if we put any extra effort in there because of the World Cup," said Keith Primeau, who scored twice for Canada. "We just wated to be 3-0, get seeded first and prove to everyone that we could play well."
There were several skirmishes but no brawls or malicious cheap shots since players didn't want to risk getting suspended for the quarterfinals.
Canadian fans, some wearing "puckhead" hats, consistently outyelled their American counterparts and waved more and larger flags. They also had the more clever signs: "Hockey is a Canadian game, Eh?," "Suter or later Gart," "Canada Eh, USA neh," "Suter R-I-P."
The game turned early, when Canada led by Steve Yzerman, Ray Bourque, Rob Blake, Trevor Linden, Chris Pronger, Adam Foote and, of course, Roy killed off the two-man disadvantage.
Just 14 seconds after the second penalty ended, Sakic faked out Suter and Mike Modano and dropped a pass to Gretzky, who slapped a pass right on to the stick of Zamuner for the goal.
The U.S. team played well in the first half of the second period but Roy was incredible, stopping Hull, Pat LaFontaine, Modano, Keith Tkachuk and John LeClair from close range.
Again, the Americans were hurt by their own power play, as Primeau scored shorthanded to make it 2-0 at 13:37. Yzerman crashed into U.S. goalie Mike Richter just before Primeau's shot but referee Bill McCreary let the goal stand as the United States protested.
Sakic scored the third goal on a rebound at 18:19 of the second. And Primeau's second goal, on a cross-ice pass from Mark Recchi, capped the scoring at 6 minutes of the third period. Recchi was the last-minute replacement for Kariya.
Jeremy Roenick, one of several U.S. players seen partying until early Sunday morning, left the ice without shaking hands with Canadian players.
It was the 13th time the teams have met in the Olympics, with Canada leading 8-2-3.
Written by Mike Nadel AP Sports Writer
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