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Czech Republic 3, Finland 0

By David Ginsburg
AP Sports Writer
Friday, February 13, 1998; 3:13 a.m. EST

NAGANO, Japan (AP) - Chalk up another shutout for Dominik Hasek, who made himself right at home in the Winter Olympics.

Hasek, whose seven shutouts for Buffalo tie for the NHL lead, stopped 17 shots Friday as the Czech Republic opened the round-robin phase of the hockey tournament by beating Finland 3-0.

There are several hockey teams in Nagano with more firepower than the Czechs, but the presence of Hasek makes them a medal contender. The 33-year-old goaltender, who ranks second in the NHL in saveage, didn't miss a beat in his first game in Japan.

Only one of the Czech Republic's three goals was scored by an active NHL player - Robert Reichel of the New York Islanders beat Finland goaltender Jarmo Myllys on a wraparound with 15:06 left to make it 2-0.

With Hasek in goal, that proved to be more than enough offense for the Czechs, who next face Kazakstan on Sunday.

The game featured the top two scorers in the NHL, Finland's Teemu Selanne (68 points with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks) and Jaromir Jagr (67 with the Pittsburgh Penguins). Jagr got an assist on a goal by Olympic veteran Vladmir Ruzicka with 12:53 remaining.

Pavel Patera scored a fluke power-play goal at 9:09 of the second period for a 1-0 lead, sending a centering pass from the right corner that struck the skate of Finland defenseman Tuomas Gronman, ricocheted through the crease and into the net.

There were plenty of empty seats in the Aqua Wing arena, but Finland received support from a man dressed as Santa Claus, who waved the country's flag and posed for pictures with children and teen-agers. The only handmade sign hanging from the stands read: ''I'm Proud That I'm a Teemu Selanne Fan.''

© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press

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