VANCOUVER - As anonymous as he tried to be - as he always tries to be - Flyers captain Mike Richards wound up in the middle of everything again.

Richards was a wing on the line that started the gold-medal game yesterday.

His shot set up the first goal in Canada's 3-2 overtime win.

Richards finished the tournament with two goals, three assists, a plus-5 rating and a gold medal, won on home soil, in a game he began on the ice.

Not bad for one of the last players on the roster.

"It was wild. It was loud. It was exciting. It was crazy," Richards said of the pregame atmosphere. "You couldn't even hear yourself think. You just wanted to get that first [shift] under you, play it safe and move on to the next one."

Canada played it very safe; too safe, almost. The U.S. carried play through much of the first period. Finally, Richards dug the puck out of a scrum and fired it at American goalie Ryan Miller. Jonathan Toews, named late to the team like Richards, popped in the rebound.

Like that, Richards had etched his name into Canadian hockey history.

"The puck ended up on my stick. I actually missed my shot," Richards said. "That probably messed Miller up a little bit. Toews has been so good in there following up on the rebound."

It was Toews' first goal of the Olympics but his eighth point in the tournament, best on the team and, with a plus-9 rating, good enough for selection to the Olympic All-Star team - a little piece of which belonged to Richards.

Maybe next time it will be Richards on the All-Star team; maybe sooner, it will be Richards, bolstered by this experience, captaining a Stanley Cup run in South Philly.

He discovered something about himself here.

"Capability of going through that much pressure and that much nerves as you play the game - not only play it, but play it well," he said.

He got only a limited chance to know the nerves of overtime gold-medal hockey, since he hit the ice just once.

The Canadians, skating with lumps as big as pucks in their throats, kept their gunners on the ice. Jarome Iginla hit screeching Sidney Crosby for the winner 7 minuets, 40 seconds into the 20-minute extra period.

It was a movie moment.

"Iggy! Iggy!" crowed Crosby, who had just dumped a pass to Iginla on the boards.

"There are different pitches of yell," Iginla recalled. "He was yelling pretty urgently."

The level of urgency tends to increase when you're the Chosen One, playing in front of the Great One - Wayne Gretzky sat at center ice near the rafters - and when you've blown a breakaway chance late in the third period.

With just over 3 minutes to play in regulation, Crosby, barreling in on Miller - but dawdling and indecisive - was caught from behind by Patrick Kane, who poked the puck away. It was Kane's shot that initiated the game-tying goal from Zach Parise with 24.4 seconds to play in regulation, forcing overtime, and framing Crosby's moment.

"I've dreamed of this moment," said Crosby, fingering his medal.

He's not the only one who had a dream come true.