What a day for hockey

What a terrific hockey game.

Team Canada won it, of course, on a terrific pass from Jarome Iginla to Sidney Crosby, who fired it past Ryan Miller for a 3-2 overtime win.

But the much bigger winner was hockey itself. Remember, folks, up until about 48 hours ago, this was a game that was going to be shown tape-delayed by NBC here in the United States.

Can you imagine?

For those of us who love and appreciate it, today's showdown was just another example of why hockey is the greatest game in the world.

But for perhaps the tens of thousands of the uninitiated -- maybe millions? -- who saw a game today for the first time, what an introduction!

Where do we start?

How about the great goal that a couple of Ducks collaborated on for Team Canada? They were already leading 1-0 when Ryan Getzlaf busted into the USA zone and fired a backhand at the net. Corey Perry, his Anaheim teammate and linemate, was right there to bang in the rebound for his fourth goal of the Games and give Canada a 2-0 lead.

(And this was after some jousting at the end of the first period between Getzlaf and Perry and USA and Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, their emotions already fired up by the rapidly building rivalry between the Kings and Ducks, and made even more so by the heightened emotions that come into play when you're representing your respective countries in front of millions of people. Can't wait until those two teams face each other in the playoffs!)

But here's the thing: Ryan Miller was playing unbelievably well, as he has throughout the tournament, and Roberto Luongo, his counterpart in Team Canada's net, just didn't look that polished or confident, even though he was going for his 10th straight win in the arena, having one his last five starts for his hometown Canucks and then the last four games for Team Canada: lots of rebounds, loose pucks, general sloppiness. You had the feeling that if Team USA just kept chipping away, throwing pucks at the net, it might end up being their day.

And that feeling was even stronger with just over seven minutes to go in the second, when Ryan Kesler passed to Patrick Kane and then headed for the net. Kane shot, Kesler tipped and just like that the score was cut to 2-1.

Early in the third, Team Canada hit one post, then another and then when Kane committed a brutal turnover in front of his own net and Dany Heatley couldn't convert, those team-of-destiny thoughts began to be entertained. Ditto for when Crosby broke in on Miller and was thwarted at the last possible second by Kane's ferocious backchecking.

And then, of course, there was the goal that tied it up for the US. It might never have happened if Luongo had caught a shot on goal by Joe Pavelski. But he flubbed it, the puck eluding his trapper and staying alive and it was Pavelskiagain, who ended up with the it on his stick in the corner to the left of Luongo. He passed out in front to Kane, who fired a low bullet at the net. Zach Parise, parked in front with his stick on the ice, pounced on the rebound and buried it behind Luongo.

Overtime now, the arena going nuts, as Canada comes oh-so-close on what seem to be sure goals. First, Iginla. Then Patrick Marleau. Then Heatley. Then Rick Nash. A shoulder here, an arm there, a flash of a pad there. Somehow the puck stays out.

And then ... in a blur ... a loose puck. Iginla finds Crosby, the guy who hasn't scored a point in his last two games, and none so far in this one, who except for that breakaway earlier in the game had been eerily quiet.

Until now.

In a flash, the puck was on his stick and then in the net, past a stunned Miller.

Canada won today, sure, and good for them.

But what a day for the USA.

And most of all, what a day for the game itself.