Russian captain Pavel Datsyuk opened the scoring midway through the second period, only for Cam Fowler to equalise five minutes later during a powerplay, after Russia’s star forward Alexander Radulov was handed a two-minute penalty.
And the USA profited from another expulsion for Radulov in the 49th minute, as Joe Pavelski put the Americans ahead. Russia in turn took advantage of a powerplay as Datsyuk scored his second with just five minutes to go in the third. The host team then had a third goal disallowed before the buzzer.
With neither side able to score during overtime, the match went to a penalty shootout as the tension inside the Bolsoi Ice Dome reached breaking point.
It wasn’t until the eighth penalty that the deadlock was finally broken. After Ilya Kovalchuk had seen Russia’s fourth attempt saved by US goaltender Jonathan Quick, T.J. Oshie – the player entrusted to take each of the American penalties - stepped up to score the winner past Russian goalie Sergei Bobrovski.
“The US team is a good team, a good test for us,” said Datsyuk. “I think our team played great tonight, but our result was not good. It's one game. We need to play at the same level every time and we'll be OK.”
The other Group A match produced the biggest upset of the hockey tournament so far, as Slovenia defeated Slovakia 3-1 for their first win.
Anze Kopitar, son of the Slovenian coach, Matjaz Kopitar, played a starring role and scored the third goal for Slovenia, whose other strikes came from Rok Ticar and Tomaz Razingar.
After two games, USA now top Group A on maximum points, ahead of Russia and Slovenia, each on three points, while Slovakia have yet to get off the mark.
Sweden and Switzerland book onward passage
In Group C, Sweden beat Latvia 5-3 at the Shayba Arena to make it three wins out of three to top the standings and book their ticket to the quarterfinals.
Latvia put up a strong resistance and drew level at 2-2 early in the second period. But the Swedes then turned up the heat to score twice in quick succession through Daniel Alfredsson and Jimmie Ericsson. Alexander Edler put the result beyond doubt seven minutes from time.
In the other preliminary game in Group C, Switzerland overcame the Czech Republic 1-0. The Swiss, who won silver at the 2013 World Championships, scored the game’s only goal through Simon Bodenmann in the 14th minute.
Their goalkeeper Thomas Hillier then kept the Czechs at bay with 26 saves, to make it a miserable 42nd birthday for Jaromir Jagr, a member of the Czech team that won gold at Nagano 1998.
The Swiss now face a wait to learn the identity of their opponents in the qualification play-off round.