VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Canada beat the United States 3-2 on Sunday to win the Olympic goal medal in its national sport of hockey, with Sidney Crosby scoring the winning goal 7:40 into overtime and setting off a celebration from coast to coast.
The perfect finish to the Olympics for the host country, the gold medal was Canada's 14th, breaking the record for most won by a nation at a Winter Games. The Soviet Union in 1976 and Norway in 2002 each won 13.
The entire hockey-crazed nation was stunned when Zack Parise scored to tie the game for the U.S. with 24.4 seconds remaining in regulation.
But Crosby's shot from the lower part of the left circle eluded goalie Ryan Miller, and Canada Hockey Place erupted in deafening cheers.
"It doesn't feel real. It feels like a dream. It just feels like dream," Crosby said. "Our team worked so unbelievably hard. Today was really tough, especially when they got the goal late in regulation. But we came back and got it in overtime."
Minutes after the game ended, delirious fans chanted, "Crosby! Crosby! Crosby!" and International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge gestured with both hands, calling for more cheers, before presenting Crosby with the gold medal. Celebrations spilled into streets of cities across the country.
Hours earlier, long lines had formed outside Vancouvers bars and restaurants as red-clad fans sought the perfect place to watch the game.
As "O Canada" played, the Canadian team stood shoulder to shoulder, arms over each others' shoulders. The U.S. team stood dejected, staring at the ice, many with their hands on their hips.
In one of the greatest games in Olympic history, Canada's collection of all-stars held off a young U.S. team that had upset the hosts 5-3 in round-robin play a week earlier. That loss forced the Canadians to play an extra game to reach the gold medal match.
Crosby had been scoreless the previous two games, but he had two post-regulation game-winners at these Olympics. He beat Switzerland with a shootout goal during the round robin.
It was close. It was nerve-racking. It was a game worthy of a gold-medal Olympic hockey final. And, for the disappointed Americans, it was a monumental letdown in a tournament in which they were almost perfect.
"It's devastating," U.S. defenseman Jack Johnson said. "It was the biggest game any of us have played in."
Now, Crosby joins Lemieux -- whose goal beat the Soviet Union in the 1987 World Cup -- and Paul Henderson, who beat the Soviets with a goal in the 1972 Summit Series, among the instant stars of Canadian hockey. At age 22, Crosby has won the NHL's Stanley Cup and the Olympics in less than a year's time.
It was also the second Canada-U.S. final in three Olympics. The Canadians won 5-2 in Salt Lake City in 2002 and appeared on the way to another comfortable victory when they took at 2-0 lead Sunday.
But they had to withstand a remarkable and determined comeback from a U.S. team that wasn't supposed to medal in Vancouver, much less roll through the tournament unbeaten before losing in the first overtime gold medal game since NHL players began taking part in the Olympics in 1998.
"No one knew our names," U.S. veteran Chris Drury said. "People know our names now."
Miller, the tournament MVP, was exceptional, and Parise scored a goal that -- if the U.S. had won -- would rank among the storied moments in American Olympic history.
With less than a half minute remaining and Miller off the ice for an extra attacker, Patrick Kane took a shot from the high slot that deflected off Jamie Langenbrunner to Parise, who shot it off Roberto Luongo's blocker and into the net.
Parise is the son of J.P. Parise, who scored two goals for Canada in the Summit Series.
Canada goalie Roberto Luongo didn't outplay Miller, but still proved he is a big-game goalie -- something he has never been previously -- by making 34 saves in his own NHL arena. Luongo won all five games he played in the tournament, including all four after replacing Martin Brodeur following the loss to the U.S. the previous Sunday.