Saturday, February 16, 2002 Updated: February 17, 4:45 PM ET
U.S. rebounds late to salvage tie
WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah -- Unlike 1980, this wasn't a
must-win Olympic hockey game for either the United States or Russia
-- so maybe it was fitting that neither team could.
Brett Hull scored off his own rebound with 4½ minutes left and
the United States -- outshot and outskated most of the night by
super-fast Russia -- managed a 2-2 tie Saturday in their first
Olympic matchup in America since the Miracle on Ice.
Brett Hull puts his own rebound past Russia's Nikolai Khabibulin to tie the score for the United States.
Sergei Fedorov and Valeri Bure scored power-play goals as Russia
put a seemingly safe 2-1 lead into the hands of goalie Nikolai
Khabibulin in the third period, but the man known as the Bulin Wall
gave up the tying score amid intense U.S. pressure.
"I thought it was great hockey by both teams," said coach Herb
Brooks, back behind the U.S. bench for the first time since
America's historic 1980 Olympic upset of the seemingly unbeatable
With the United States throwing 15 shots at Russia in the final
period -- Russia led 20-10 in shots after the first two periods --
Hull finally got the tying goal.
Hull, one of the highest-scoring Americans ever in the NHL, took
Phil Housley's cross-ice pass in the left circle and, after
fumbling his first attempt, swept the puck back onto his stick and
line-drived it past Khabibulin at 15:30 of the third.
"It kind of sat there on the ice after the first shot," Hull
said. "We had been waiting for another chance, and I managed to
Mike Richter, the most experienced and successful U.S. goalie in
international play, was equally strong. He didn't allow an
equal-strength goal while making 33 saves against nearly nonstop
pressure after the United States dominated the first five minutes.
"We got back on our heels a bit and gave them a lot of room,
but we just started skating again (in the third period),"
defenseman Brian Leetch said. "It was their puck control that gave
us problems, not their defensive system."
Now, that was a throwback to '80, when the Russians' stylish
weave-and-pass, control-the-puck strategy frustrated the rest of
the world, even NHL all-star teams.
"We thought we should have won it, but Brett Hull is a great
scorer," Russia forward Pavel Bure said. "There weren't too many
chances for either team."
The tie all but assures that the United States and Russia will
tie for their four-team pool championship, with total goals scored
as the tiebreaker -- which favors the Americans, who play Belarus on
Monday while Russia plays Finland. Winning the pool assures a more
favorable quarterfinal matchup, almost certainly against Germany,
but nothing else.
Also, the United States has already surpassed its dismal efforts
in the 1998 games in Nagano, where it won only once in four games
and smashed chairs in their dorm rooms after failing to reach the
The United States, its offense slowed by Russia's fast forwards
and puck-moving defensemen, had only one shot in nearly 19 minutes
until Keith Tkachuk finally scored the first goal at 6:19 of the
second period -- and it took a 5-on-3 power play to get it.
Brian Leetch's shot from the left point deflected off defenseman
Darius Kasparaitis' skate in front of the net and, just as
Khabibulin was about to cover it with his glove, Tkachuk skated by
and whacked it into the net, setting off a delirious wave of noise
from a red, white and blue-wearing crowd that was noisy from the
Tkachuk later injured a leg, but Brooks said after the game he
wasn't certain how bad it was or what was the exact nature of the injury.
Russia put itself in the precarious situation when Ilya
Kovalchuk (holding) and Vladimir Malakhov (elbowing) drew penalties
32 seconds apart just when the Russians had started to control the
tempo and flow.
"But there was no bad stuff out there," Russian forward Igor
Larionov said. "It was all skill. It's a fun kind of hockey to
But Russia later answered with a power play goal of its own.
With John LeClair, the three-goal star of Friday night's 6-0
victory over Finland off for interference, Malakhov threaded a
cross-ice pass through traffic to Bure at the left circle hash
marks, and his one-timer whizzed through Richter's pads just as the
goalie threw one leg up to try to deflect the puck.
Even with the pumped-up, flag-waving crowd and Brooks behind the
U.S. bench, almost everything about hockey has changed since the
United States' historic 4-3 victory over the Soviet hockey machine
Then, the Soviet Union had arguably the world's best team,
amateur in name only, and was able to keep some of the world's best
players together for years because a communist government blocked
them from playing in the NHL.
Now, every player in Saturday's game plays professionally in
North America, and the same Russian players who were being booed
will be cheered again in their NHL rinks in only 10 days. And
Russian coach Slava Fetisov, who played in the 1980 game, will go
back to being a New Jersey Devils' adviser, helping players such as
U.S. defenseman Brian Rafalski.