SOCHI, Russia -- The first Olympic goal of Joe Pavelski's life was a stunner, a one-timer, a corker, a laser, a lifetime memory, a fist-pumper and even a Putin silencer.
That would be Russian President Vladimir Putin, of course. He was watching Saturday's big USA-Russia hockey game from his luxury suite above the ice here at the Bolshoy Ice Dome.
And, just like all the other Russian fans in the building, watching intently as this "Miracle On Ice" rematch unfolded, Putin fell quiet when Pavelski's power play goal gave the USA a 2-1 lead halfway through the third period.
Pavelski quite enjoyed that moment. Of course he did.
"As a player, you want to play in something like this," Pavelski said. "It's a big show out there."
The biggest hockey show in the world, is all. It is fun for a Sharks player to be part of a victory back at SAP Center in San Jose. But being a part of a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory for your country over Russia on its home ice in the Olympic Games ... well, that classifies as epic.
Pavelski took a filthy cross-ice pass from Patrick Kane just to the left of the crease -- a place he has found open space and scored so many times for the Sharks -- and rifled it home. But the goal did not stand up as the game-winner. Russia had too much talent and too much push from the home crowd to let that happen.
Instead, Pavelski's goal basically teed up a wild and delicious final 10 minutes of action in the third period.
First, Pavel Datsyuk tied up the game once more for Russia at 2-2.
Minutes later, an apparent third Russian goal was disallowed (more on that in a few paragraphs).
Next, there were five minutes of firewagon 4-on-4 overtime that still yielded no winner.
And then came a stirring shootout duel that lasted longer than a Martin Scorsese movie, with less blood but much more T.J. Oshie.
The shootout featured eight rounds of one-on-one attempts and 16 total shots -- with the eventual decisive score by Oshie, the St. Louis Blues forward who ended the game positively for the USA on his sixth shootout attempt.
That's right. His sixth. Under international rules, after the first three rounds of overtime, the same player can be used for subsequent rounds. Thus, after the first three USA shooters (including Pavelski, who missed his attempt) yielded no final result, coach Dan Bylsma decided to keep things simple.
How so? Bylsma just sent Oshie out there again and again -- and again and again and again -- against Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. In their six confrontations, Oshie beat Bobrovsky four times, including the decider.
"I was just trying to think of something else I could do, each time I went out there," Oshie said, admitting he almost exhausted his repertoire. "I did feel pressure a little bit, but then the puck hits your stick and you just start skating."
But back on the USA bench, the shootout sure must have been fun to watch, yes?
"What do you think?" Pavelski asked with an are-you-kidding-me expression, then smiled when asked if he could sense Oshie felt nervous.
"He's got enough moves," Pavelski said. "I guess he doesn't need nerves. He was great."
So were the Russians, though. With high skill and plenty of Datsyuk, you could say they carried the play most of the night. The USA may well see them again. Saturday's game was just a preliminary round matchup. So the result did not clinch the USA any medal. But it did give the USA a chance to clinch a bye and a higher seed in Wednesday's quarterfinals. Russia should be there, too.
In fact, Russia's players believed the USA was fortunate to even reach overtime Saturday. They had a good case. With 4:40 left in the third period, Fedor Tyutin flipped the puck past USA goalie Jonathan Quick and the Russian crowd began celebrating. But no goal was indicated by the officials, who wanted to see a replay.
The video confirmed what the officials had seen. The net's right post had come just slightly off its embedded-in-ice peg after Quick had earlier slid into the thing. The goal likely would have counted under NHL rules, because they are more lenient about nets being dislodged. But international rules leave no room for referees' judgment. If the goal post is slightly off, a goal can't count.
When the decision was announced, USA players were puzzled but happy.
"I'm still looking for the explanation," said American center David Backes. "I don't even know what the call was. I don't know if it was a high stick or the net was knocked off slightly or if God went in there and stopped it. But it didn't count."
No doubt, Russian radio sportstalk shows were buzzing after the call -- especially because the game happened to be assigned to an American referee, Brad Meier.
Plus, Russian forward SlavaVoynov, is a teammate of Quick's with the Los Angeles Kings, more or less accused the American goalie of purposely dislodging the net.
"I play with him," Voynov said. "I know that's his style."
Oh, my. If the two teams should meet again later in the tournament, none of this will be forgotten. The few hundred USA fans in the dome yelped loudly when Oshie's clinching goal hit the back of the net. But the thousands of Russian fans went silent once more, as they did after Pavelski's goal.
Also going silent, in a fashion, was the outside roof of the Bolshoy Ice Dome itself. In perhaps the coolest touch of these Olympics, the roof is covered by a grid of lights that flashes the scores of games played beneath it. But half an hour after Saturday's result, the lights flashed no pattern at all.
Pavelski and his USA teammates had at least temporarily jammed the grid. Well done, citizens.