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With just under 2½ minutes gone in the third period, Christian broke up-ice and slid a pass to Phil Verchota, who broke around the defense and beat Valtonen to tie the game at 2-2. Then, at 6:05, Christian backhanded a shot from the point that the ubiquitous Johnson picked up behind the net and passed out front to Rob McClanahan. After waiting calmly for Valtonen to make the fatal first move, McClanahan slipped the puck between the goaltender's legs for a 3-2 U.S. lead.
The drama built as the Americans were called for three penalties between 6:48 and 15:45 and the Finns pressed the attack. Finally, with 3½ minutes to play, the U.S. scored perhaps its most spectacular goal of the entire tournament—a shorthanded one at that. Christoff slammed a startled Finn against the boards and centered a pass to Johnson.
"I was going to shoot it right away but the puck was bouncing, so I pulled it around, went in and took a backhand," Johnson said. Valtonen sprawled and blocked Johnson's shot, but with two defenders on him, the 5' 9", 155-pound Johnson rapped the rebound into the net. It was his team-high 11th point of the tournament. "We knew we'd never be in this situation again," Johnson would say. "I just sit here in awe."
It was the only time all week that any of the U.S. players had been in awe of anything. Coach Herb Brooks had told them so many times over the past few months that Soviet captain Boris Mikhailov looks like Stan Laurel that, well, it was impossible for them to treat Mikhailov, or any of his teammates, with reverence. "Every time we watched a film of the Russians," said Harrington, "he'd keep saying, 'Stan Laurel, Stan Laurel, look at Stan Laurel.' "
Harrington, Silk and captain Mike Eruzione have compiled a 16-page booklet entitled Brooksisms—and "Stan Laurel" is an entry. An old-fashioned motivator, Brooks repeats favored aphorisms with enough regularity that they make an impression. Among them:
•You're playing worse every day, and right now you're playing like the middle of next month.
•Gentlemen, you don't have enough talent to win on talent alone.
•Boys, in front of the net it's bloody-nose alley.
•Don't dump the puck in. That went out with short pants.
•Throw the puck back and weave, weave, weave. But don't just weave for the sake of weaving.