A hockey-mad nation, already brimming with pride as Olympic hosts, exploded in celebration yesterday as Sidney Crosby scored to end a tightrope-tense men’s hockey thriller against the United States and cap the Games with Canada’s record-setting 14th gold medal.

Vancouver’s downtown core erupted in a deafening din after Crosby put the puck through Ryan Miller’s legs 7:40 into overtime to make it 3-2, avenging the U.S. domination of the Olympic podium and forcing the U.S. to settle for silver.

Overtime wouldn’t have been necessary but for a heart-rending goal by U.S. winger Zach Parise with less than half a minute left of regulation.

When Crosby scored, the rafters shook at Canada Hockey Place with the capacity crowd in a collective spasm of joy.

The 14th gold medal gave Canada a storybook ending to its 17-day Olympic epic. It established a new record for the most top-tier podium finishes in a Winter Olympics, a record previously established by the Soviet Union in 1976 and tied by Norway in 2002.

It also sets a new benchmark for the most gold medals awarded to a host nation at a Winter Games.

Canada’s total of 26 medals, including seven silver and five bronze, was the country’s best ever at a Winter Olympics. The previous best was 24 in Turin in 2006.

The total of 26 left Canada in third place overall behind the United States and Germany.

The closing ceremonies began just hours after the hockey game, with figure skater Joannie Rochette carrying the host country’s flag.

In the only other medal event taking place yesterday, the men’s 50-kilometre classic cross-country ski race, Devon Kershaw of Sudbury, just missed out on a podium finish, placing fifth.