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U.S hockey picks up tie with speedy Russians

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2002

WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah (AP) -- Brett Hull scored off his own rebound with 4 1/2 minutes left and the United States -- outshot and outskated most of the night by super-fast Russia -- managed a 2-2 tie Saturday.

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.

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 misfiring on his first attempt, swept the puck back onto his stick and line-drived it past Khabibulin at 15:30 of the third.

Mike Richter was equally strong in the U.S. net, never allowing an equal-strength goal while making 33 saves against nearly nonstop pressure after the United States dominated the first five minutes.

The tie all but assures that the United States and Russia will tie for the pool championship, with total goals scored as the tie-breaker -- 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.

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.

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 Russia 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 coach Herb Brooks behind the U.S. bench, almost everything about hockey has changed since the United States' historic 4-3 ''Miracle on Ice'' victory over the Soviet hockey machine in 1980.

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.



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