VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — So much for youth leading the way. Good old grit and experience carried the U.S. Olympic men's hockey team to a 5-3 upset of Canada.
In as hostile a place as possible — Canada in Canada — the only three American players with Olympic experience provided the bulk of the offense Sunday night, with Brian Rafalski scoring twice, and Chris Drury and captain Jamie Langenbrunner adding one goal each.
The young Americans swept their way through Switzerland, Norway and Canada to a first-place finish in Group A that sent them directly to the quarterfinals. Three more wins will mean a gold medal.
"Obviously, it's a big game for us," Rafalski said. "It's great for our young players to get a win of this caliber against that type of team. Going forward, it sets the bar very high for us. It lets those guys know that we can possibly win this thing."
The 36-year-old Rafalski, a defenseman who won two Stanley Cup rings with New Jersey, is the oldest player on the U.S. team. Langenbrunner, also the Devils captain, is the second oldest skater at 34. Then comes Drury at 33.
"These guys have been through it," said 24-year-old forward Ryan Callahan, Drury's New York Rangers teammate. "Those guys have got to lead the way, and everybody else followed."
Drury's inclusion when the team was picked on New Year's Day was met with a healthy dose of criticism because his play has slipped since he signed a lucrative free-agent deal with the Rangers in 2007.
U.S. general manager Brian Burke explained the decision, saying Drury was chosen because he's a leader and a clutch player, going back to the days when he was a Little League World Series champion.
With their biggest win since Mike Eruzione captained the 1980 Miracle on Ice team to gold in Lake Placid, N.Y., the references to past glory were inevitable.
"We put him on the team for leadership," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said, referring to Drury. "He has those, well I'll say it, some Mike Eruzione-type qualities. He does a lot of dirty grunt work that oftentimes gets overlooked, but not by coaches."
There was even more second-guessing about the selection when the Americans chose the captain and the alternates for the Olympics and Drury, now a three-time Olympian, didn't make that group.
"Some of the criticism he gets in New York, I don't think is fair," Callahan said. "I know as a guy playing with him every night that he lays it on the line. Sometimes you don't see it from the stands. He works hard. He gets the job done. He does the little things and then tonight he bangs home a pretty big goal. That's Dru for you."
Drury made the selection committee look smart.
"You saw it," said 25-year-old forward Zach Parise. "He scored a big goal, was awesome on the penalty kill, blocked a lot of shots, played a lot of key minutes. He is a guy you can rely on. For a young guy like myself, he's good to have in the dressing room."
Langenbrunner and Rafalski, who donned a 'C' and 'A', respectively, on their 1960 throwback jerseys stepped up, too. The Americans hadn't beaten Canada in the Olympics in the 50 years since wearing that look en route to the gold medal in Squaw Valley, Calif.
Rafalski followed up on his two-goal effort in a 6-1 win over Norway by giving the U.S. leads of 1-0 and 2-1 in the first period. He scored four straight American goals over two games despite getting only six shots on net.
"He's a real good player," said Canada's Mike Babcock, Rafalski's coach with Detroit. "We saw it tonight and I see it all the time. He's one of those guys who has done a lot of winning — he's got three Cups — and he knows how to lift his game when it counts."
Drury made it 3-2 with his second of the tournament with 3:14 left in the second, and Langenbrunner tipped Rafalski's shot past Canada goalie Martin Brodeur 7:09 into the third to give the Americans' their first two-goal lead of the night.
Ryan Kesler put it away by swiping in an empty-net goal with one hand with 45 seconds remaining.