SOCHI, Russia – T.J. Oshie's magic in shootouts was a frequent topic of conversation when general manager David Poile and his selection committee chose the U.S. Olympic team roster.
"You know at some point we are going to end up in a shootout, and we are going to want T.J. Oshie," Poile said more than once.
Coaches had the same mindset about Oshie's specialty. The Americans appreciated what he brought to the team in general, but they loved his shootout process. He was like the team's ace in the hole, a guy who habitually hits it out of the park when it was needed most.
The "some point" that Poile talked about came Saturday when Oshie converted four of six shootout chances against Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to give the Americans a wildly entertaining 3-2 shootout win against the Russians.
"I've never seen anything quite like that," said U.S. defenseman Ryan McDonagh. "I never knew he had that in his repertoire, all of those moves."
Oshie scored right after U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick stood his ground to force Ilya Kovalchuk to miss for the second time in four chances.
"I think I aged two years in that shootout," U.S. coach Dan Bylsma said.
In the NHL this season, Oshie is 7-for-10 in shootout attempts, with two game-deciding goals. U.S. captain Zach Parise said he felt nervous for Oshie.
USA TODAY Sports columnist Christine Brennan previews the upcoming day at the Sochi Olympics, including the men's hockey showdown between the USA and Russia. Gannett
Unlike in the NHL where a player shoots only once, international rules allow for using the same player over and over once three different players have been used.
At one point, Pavel Datsyuk scored to give Russia a 2-1 lead in the shootout. Oshie had to score on his next shot, or Russia would have won. He did.
"It was somewhat of a chess match – he kept him guessing," said U.S. center Joe Pavelski, who missed his shootout attempt.
Oshie doesn't recall ever facing Bobrovsky in a shootout.
"I was just trying to think of something to do," Oshie said.
U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick wasn't surprised by Oshie's performance. "I've faced him a few times in the shootout and I didn't do well against him," he said.
Backes said he has seen that move 1,000 times in St. Louis Blues practices.
"It kind of makes me chuckle when I see it," Backes said, adding, "His hockey sense is off the charts and he makes plays. Today, he got to do it in front of a lot of spectators here and back home."
A crowd of 11,678, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, was on the edge of their seats for the entire game that was intense and hard fought from the opening faceoff.