SALT LAKE CITY, Feb. 24 (UPI) -- Joe Sakic keyed an all-out attacking style of offense Sunday that carried Canada to a 5-2 victory over the United States in the Olympics gold medal hockey game.
It had been 50 years to the day since Canada had won the hockey gold.
Sakic scored twice and added two assists as the Canadian team pressured the American goal from start to finish.
Canada's lead was only 3-2, however, with just over five minutes remaining when the game's key sequence took place.
Brett Hull found himself open to the left of Canadian goaltender Martin Brodeur and rocketed one of his typical slap shots toward the lower, left-hand corner of the goal. Brodeur barely got his skate on the shot to make the critical save and seconds later Jarome Iginla scored his second goal to all but decide the contest.
Sakic removed all doubt with less than two minutes remaining with his second goal.
"Yes, I'm relieved and so is all of Canada," said the team's executive director, hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. "Joe Sakic and Jarome Inginla stepped up. By the end of the tournament we proved were the best team."
Gretzky and Canadian Coach Pat Quinn had been heavily criticized in Canada after the team's opening round-robin game, a one-sided loss to Sweden. Canada's only win in the round-robin portion of the tournament came against Germany and the Canadians were saved the task of facing Sweden again in the semifinals when Belarus shocked the Swedes in the quarterfinals.
So there was plenty of doubt remaining about the Canadian team going into the gold medal contest. That doubt was soon removed.
"We got better each game as we adapted to the big ice and got comfortable with our lines," Quinn said. "We have left a legacy for Canada hockey."
Canada brought everybody forward in its attack from the start and even though the United States caught the Canadians up ice and scored the game's first goal on a two-on-one break, the Americans never seemed to have enthusiasm for the contest that their opponents did.
"The Canadian writers will claim this is sour grapes and maybe it is," said United States coach Herb Brooks. "But we had the tougher road to the final game, playing Russia on Friday. We didn't have the same legs today that we had the other games. They were energized, we were not. We had to accept the draw when it was made, but it affected things."
"I think Herb is right," said American center Mike Modano. "We came out a bit flat despite scoring the first goal. We had no jump and maybe it was because we went hard from the very first game."
Brodeur stopped 31 shots and had periods of inactivity while his teammates were constantly on the attack.
"The way the finals came about, playing against the Americans in the U.S., the way we played through and battled, getting scored on first and then coming back, it was great," Brodeur said. "We captured a lot of people's eyes to show what kind of sport we have."
He recognized his save on Hull's third-period shot as being a key one.
"I knew he was there for the one timer," Brodeur said. "I tried to kick it out as quick as I could and I made it to the goal line while the puck was coming in. It was a good save and we went back and scored after that. From there, we had the feeling we had it wrapped up."