My Favorite Goal: Sakic helps end Canada’s Olympic gold drought

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Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers, personalities and NHL players remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, PHT’s Joey Alfieri remembers Joe Sakic’s goal that sealed Canada’s win in the 2002 Olympic gold medal game.

It might be easy for some to forget now, but Canada went through an Olympic gold medal drought that lasted 50 years. Sure, NHLers weren’t allowed in the Olympics throughout most of that slump, but it was a big deal when I was growing up. Let me add a little background to my international hockey obsession.

As a youngster growing up in Montreal, Quebec, the first international tournament I really remember paying close attention to was the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. At the time, I was eight years old and I remember sitting on my couch watching the  Canada-Czech Republic semifinal with those hockey cards you could cut out from behind the Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese boxes (anyone else remember those things?). In one hand, I had a Patrick Roy card and in the other, I had a Dominik Hasek card.

Of course, both goalies were going head-to-head that day, which is why I had those cards close by. When Hasek stopped Brendan Shanahan on Canada’s final shootout attempt, I was in shambles. I remember my family trying to console me, but there was nothing anyone could say that to take the pain of losing to the Czechs go away in that moment.

I look back on that moment now and realize the heartbreak I suffered took my passion for the sport to another level. It was the first time I was really heartbroken over a single hockey moment.

I was so distraught that I tore my Hasek and Roy cards to pieces. I was furious at Hasek for winning, I was heartbroken that Roy didn’t make one more save. It was terrible. I’ll never forget Hasek leaping into the air repeatedly seconds after that game ended.

Anyway, let’s fast-forward to 2002.

You have to keep in mind that my love for international hockey intensified year after year leading up to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. There was more heartbreak between the 1998 Olympic loss and the 2002 triumph though.

During those years, I began following the World Junior Championship closely and it just so happened that Canada failed to win the tournament every year between 1998 and 2005. My frustration with Hockey Canada was pretty high heading into that 2002 tournament.

I remember head coach Pat Quinn announcing that Curtis Joseph would be his starting goaltender heading into the tournament. I recall not being a fan of that move (keep in mind, I was 12-year-old living in Martin Brodeur’s hometown).

So, Canada opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss to Team Sweden. The Swedes were loaded with talent, but I was still stunned. It’s not the way I expected the Canadians to open the tournament. The confidence in my team, which probably took four years to develop, was gone in one night.

But Canada ended up switching from Joseph to Brodeur and they managed to beat Germany 3-2 in their second game. The Canadians then tied the Czechs in their final round robin game. Throughout this entire opening round, I never allowed myself to think that they had a legitimate chance at gold. After all, I was just trying to avoid the same sting I felt last time.

So, the knockout portion of the tournament comes and Canada beats Finland 2-1 in the quarter-final, and then they take out Belarus, who shocked Sweden, rather easily (7-1) in the semi-final.

It’s Canada and Team USA in the final for all the marbles.

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2002. It’s a day I’ll never forget. Like every fan, I was nervous. And I was sick and tired of hearing about this 50-year gold medal drought everyone was talking about.

The game starts, and Tony Amonte opens the scoring for the Americans. Here we go again. The Canadians respond with two goals from Paul Kariya and Jarome Iginla before the end of the first frame and Canada goes into the intermission with a 2-1 lead. I’m just a kid, but I’m a wreck. The intermissions felt like they lasted a lifetime.

Brian Rafalski ties the game in the second period, but Joe Sakic puts Canada up by a goal late in the second period.

20 minutes to go.

The Canadians were nursing that one-goal lead for most of the final period. With every great American chance, I was getting more and more antsy. Finally, Iginla scored his second goal of the game with four minutes remaining to give Canada a two-goal edge. I was ecstatic, but I still wanted to hold off celebrating.

But then it happened.

It’s a goal call that I’ll never forget by my favorite play-by-play announcer, Bob Cole.

Canada trying to hang on. They get a break. It’s gonna be a break. It is Joe Sakic…scores! Jiiiiiiiiooooo Sakic scores! And that makes it 5-2 for Canada. Surely, that’s gotta be it!

I’ll never forget the way Cole said Sakic’s full name after that puck crossed the goal line. It was perfect. What a moment.

Finally, I realized that the ridiculous drought I had been hearing about for weeks was about to become a thing of the past.

Even though Sakic’s goal wasn’t the game-winner or anything like that, it symbolized so much more to me. It was the final nail in Team USA’s coffin and it made the 1998 heartbreak hurt a lot less.

“As a kid growing up in Canada, you dream of playing in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup, and one day wearing a Team Canada jersey,” Sakic told Olympic.ca. “Having the chance to play for my country at the Olympics, and especially winning a gold medal in Salt Lake City, was an amazing and memorable experience I’ll always cherish.”

Most Canadians never get to represent their country on the international stage, but Sakic’s goal made every hockey fan in the nation feel like something special. As Canadians, we’re supposed to be good at hockey. For a long while, it didn’t feel that way. But that day in February, one man’s goal changed everything.

PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL:
Darren McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
Alex Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie
Marek Malik’s stunning shootout winner
Paul Henderson scores for Canada
Tomas Hertl goes between-the-legs
Borschevsky’s goal sealed with a kiss
Bolland clinches Cup for Blackhawks 17 seconds later
Stoll completes Kings’ upset over Canucks

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

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    Predators-Avalanche postponed due to water main break

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    NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Friday’s game between the Nashville Predators and the Colorado Avalanche has been postponed because of a water main break that has soaked the downtown arena.

    The NHL said the water main break has “significantly impacted the event level” of Bridgestone Arena. Team locker rooms and the ice surface are on the event level.

    Predators President and CEO Sean Henry told reporters that the water in the event level ranged from 3 inches to 3 feet.

    “We’re assessing it right now. We’re remediating it,” Henry said. “The good thing is, the water got shut off, the city responded in a pretty fast manner. I don’t think anyone is ready for things like this the Friday after Thanksgiving.”

    Video posted by a WTVF-TV reporter shows the water puddled up on the main floor’s concourse area and the team store.

    The team was forced to close the store until further notice, pointing shoppers online for Black Friday specials.

    A makeup date for the  game will be announced later.

    Also, a decision on whether to postpone the Predators’ home game against the Columbus Blue Jackets will be made later.

    The water issue also resulted in a switch to a different venue in Nashville for a college hockey game between Northeastern and Western Michigan. They had been scheduled to play at Bridgestone Arena, a game that was moved to Ford Ice Center Bellevue.

    Rangers trade Ryan Reaves to Wild for 5th-round pick in 2025

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    ST. PAUL, Minn. — The New York Rangers traded enforcer Ryan Reaves to the Minnesota Wild for a 2025 fifth-round pick.

    Reaves had been a healthy scratch for eight of the past 12 games for the Rangers. He gives struggling Minnesota some extra muscle and a veteran presence.

    The 35-year-old is signed through only the rest of this season at a $1.75 million salary cap hit. He has no points and 12 penalty minutes in 12 games of his second season with New York.

    Reaves has played in 869 NHL regular-season and playoff games for the St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vegas Golden Knights and Rangers. He was with the Golden Knights during their inaugural season in 2017-18 when the reached the Stanley Cup Final.

    Toronto’s Morgan Rielly placed on long-term injured reserve

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    TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs placed defenseman Morgan Rielly on long-term injured reserve with a knee injury.

    Rielly was hurt in a collision with with New York forward Kyle Palmieri early in the third period of Toronto’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Islanders at home.

    Rielly has no goals and 16 assists in 20 games this season and is averaging 23 minutes of ice time.

    Leafs coach Sheldon Keefe said following practice that the 28-year-old Rielly doesn’t need surgery, adding there’s no firm timeline for his return beyond the minimum 24 days and 10 games required for going on long-term injured reserve.

    Toronto’s defense is also missing Jake Muzzin with a neck injury and T.J. Brodie with an injured oblique.

    Carrier, Pietrangelo rally Golden Knights past Canucks 5-4

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    VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Pietrangelo scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had two assists as the Vegas Golden Knights rallied past the Vancouver Canucks 5-4 on Monday night.

    William Carrier scored twice and Mark Stone had a goal and an assist for the Golden Knights (15-4-1), who overcame a 4-2 deficit in the third. Reilly Smith also scored, while Jack Eichel and Alec Martinez each had two assists.

    Logan Thompson made 25 saves for Vegas, which had a go-ahead goal wiped out in the third but still kept pushing.

    “I don’t think that’s really how we drew it up,” Pietrangelo said. “A lot of emotions. Obviously we score and then it gets taken back. But I’ll tell you what, it’s not easy to win on the road and you’ve got to give credit to our group – we were resilient no matter what happened.”

    Vancouver (6-10-3) got a goal and an assist from Andrei Kuzmenko. Bo Horvat, Luke Schenn and Elias Pettersson also scored, and Quinn Hughes had two assists.

    Thatcher Demko stopped 33 shots for the Canucks, who gave up a multi-goal lead in a loss for the seventh time this season.

    “Inexcusable,” defenseman Luke Schenn said.

    “That’s nothing to do with systems or what the coaches are telling us. That comes down to battle and compete and, we’re getting outmuscled and outbattled in front of the net and in the blue paint,” he added. “Everyone just needs to be better in front of (Demko) there and that’s where games are won and lost.”

    Vegas appeared to take the lead midway through the third period, but the goal was disallowed because of a bizarre bounce.

    A clearing attempt by the Canucks hit the lens of a camera sticking through one of the media holes in the glass, knocking a piece of it onto the ice. Play continued at that end and Stone put the puck in the net. But after a video review, the goal was overturned and an official said the whistle should have been blown to stop play.

    About four minutes later, Pietrangelo did give the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage when he collected a puck from Stone and sent a backhand past Demko from the low slot at 14:14.

    Vancouver scored three straight goals early in the third to go up 4-2 before Vegas roared back.

    “We let them score one, kind of changed the momentum quick and then they scored another one. So I don’t know,” Pettersson said. “We just can’t let that happen. It’s been happening way too many times this season.”

    Carrier made it 4-3 with his second of the night at 6:54, sending in a rebound from the top of the crease for his sixth of the season.

    “Once they scored one it was like, `Uh oh, here we go again.’ And we’re back on our heels and they came at us, and then they got three,” Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau said.

    Smith shoveled a puck into the Vancouver net at 8:57 to tie it.

    “We just win some pucks below their goal line and get it to the front of the net and force them to defend an area they haven’t done as good a job as they’d probably like this year there,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “We didn’t do a very good job to start a third there, and then it snowballs a little bit. You have a little life and you get a couple more pucks to the net and a second chance.”

    ON A ROLL

    Horvat drew the Canucks even 1:47 into the third with a wrist shot from the hash marks. Vancouver’s captain has 15 goals, second-most in the NHL behind Connor McDavid (16). … Brock Boeser‘s assist on the first goal of the game extended his point streak to seven games (two goals, six assists).

    MARKING MILESTONES

    Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault played his 500th regular-season NHL game. Now in his 10th season, the 31-year-old center suited up for Columbus, Tampa Bay and Florida before Vegas selected him in the 2017 expansion draft. … Vancouver defenseman Ethan Bear made his 200th regular-season appearance.

    UP NEXT

    Golden Knights: Host the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday in the opener of a three-game homestand.

    Canucks: Begin a three-game trip Wednesday at Colorado.