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Intense atmosphere

Not even 22 years dulls heat of U.S.-Russia matchup

Posted: Sunday February 17, 2002 3:57 AM
Updated: Sunday February 17, 2002 4:08 AM

 
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SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) -- Herb Brooks was behind the U.S. bench. Mike Eruzione was in the Olympic arena on home soil. Russia was wearing red.

But those were about the only similarities left over from 1980.

Russia and the United States squared off on Saturday for the first time at the Olympics since the Lake Placid Games where Eruzione's semifinal goal gave a bunch of college students a 4-3 win over the vaunted Soviet Union.

This time, the two faced off sporting rosters laden with highly paid NHL stars instead of sociology majors and Red Army sergeants. The result was a game that was just as inspired, though no victor was declared as the two battled to a 2-2 tie.

"It's a little different. 1980 was a bunch of 18- and 19-year-olds and at that time in hockey nobody expected it to happen," said Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano. "We were all glued to our TV sets back then. It's special for us and I'm sure pretty special for Herb to have another chance."

Russia had waited 22 years for a chance to exact its revenge. Now it has to wait a little longer, though maybe no more than a week.

Though the game meant little in terms of winning a medal due to the round-robin format, both teams played as though the Cold War had never thawed.

"The intensity out there was incredible. Both teams really gave it all they had," said U.S. hero Brett Hull, who tied the game with less than five minutes to play.

"You always want to beat the Russians. We're known as a bunch of plumbers so we were just trying to play to their level."

The Americans took the lead six minutes into the second period when St. Louis Blues forward Keith Tkachuk poked a loose puck through the pads of Nikolai Khabibulan during a two-man advantage.

Mike Richter sparkled in goal for the U.S. stopping several good scoring chances until Valeri Bure, on a power play, took Vladimir Malakhov's cross-ice pass and wristed home a high shot past the sliding netminder.

"To most of us the memories from 1980 do not mean much because we hardly remember what happened there," said Bure, who was 5 years old at the time. "But just playing the U.S. team on American soil in front of the packed house is enough to get your blood flowing and it was a big game for us no matter what."

Detroit Red Wings star Sergei Fedorov finally put the Russians ahead 2-1 at 2:06 of the third period when he banged home a rebound from close range.

Both sides then opened up an already wide-open affair with end-to-end rushes that had many fans jumping out of their seats for the last 10 minutes.

Khabibulan showed his All-Star form until Fedorov's Detroit teammate Hull one-timed a pass from Phil Housely to beat the Russian goalie and tie the game.

Though both teams would like to secure top spot in Group D, the three games in this round of the tournament only determine the seedings for the quarterfinals which begin on Wednesday.

The two teams are tied with three points each from two games, but the U.S. leads the group on goal differential.


 
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