Although the legendary Vladislav Tretiak has retired, the Soviet Union still possesses a world-class goaltender. Vladimir Myshkin made four sensational saves in the last 10 minutes tonight to preserve a 2-1 victory over the United States and assure the U.S.S.R. of first place in the round-robin phase of the Canada Cup.
Myshkin turned back Hartford's Mark Johnson from 10 feet away with 46 seconds left to complete an outstanding third period in which he blocked nine shots, after facing only eight in the first 40 minutes. The battle of the tournament's last two unbeaten teams was an exciting one, although only 5,000 watched in 17,498-seat Northlands Coliseum.
The small crowd was no surprise, since only 2,500 turned out to see the Soviets and West Germany Thursday. Tonight, there was competition from the football game between the Edmonton Eskimos and the Grey Cup champion Toronto Argonauts.
Both teams were booed liberally, with Bryan Trottier of the New York Islanders taking the most heat when he was introduced as a starter. Trottier, from Val Marie, Saskatchewan, chose to play for the United States rather than his native Canada and has received that treatment in every Canadian city in which he has played.
Although Czechoslovakia played in Buffalo Thursday, drawing more than 12,000 against Team USA, the Soviets were reluctant to play in the United States, apparently fearing a backlash from their Olympic boycott.
Sergei Makarov scored his fourth tournament goal on the first shot of the game, 22 seconds after the opening faceoff. It was the only score of a period in which Team USA was outshot, 8-4.
Igor Larionov initiated the scoring play by checking Montreal defenseman Chris Chelios off the puck against the boards behind the U.S. net, at the left of goalie Tom Barrasso. Vladimir Krutov pounded on the puck and the other defenseman, Minnesota's Gord Roberts, followed him behind the goal.
However, Makarov came from the other direction, took the puck and cut in front of the net to sweep it between Barrasso's legs.
The Soviets had most of the other good scoring chances, as Team USA was forced to play conservatively on offense because of its inability to match the Soviets' speed.
On the best U.S. chances, St. Louis' Joe Mullen made an off-target tip of a shot by Washington's Rod Langway and New Jersey's Aaron Broten could not quite reach Mullen's pass through the crease with Myshkin out of position.
Team USA's only power play lasted just 31 seconds, as Langway tried to drop a pass to Washington teammate Bob Carpenter and Soviet Sergei Svetlov picked it off. Minnesota's Neal Broten hooked Svetlov down to prevent a breakaway.
Team USA drew another penalty when Barrasso slashed Sergei Yashin for the second time in less than a minute. Some solid checking disrupted the Soviet power play, Langway dumping both Krutov and Makarov with the same check.
The Soviets enjoyed an even bigger edge in play in the second period as they outshot Team USA, 13-4. Nevertheless, the game stayed close on the scoreboard as each club managed a goal.
Mikhail Varnakov boosted the Soviet lead to 2-0 at 2:34. Alexander Skvortsov skated down the right side and, as Chicago draftee Ed Olczyk dove to stop him, he slid a pass into the crease to Varnakov.
Barrasso got his glove on the ice to deflect the puck, but he could not control it. Varnakov pulled it loose and poked it into the net for his second Canada Cup goal.
The United States applied good pressure during a two-minute segment while each team was short-handed, but it could not shoot accurately. Then Buffalo's Mike Ramsey threaded a needle to halve the Soviets' margin.
Ramsey picked up a loose puck at the Soviet blueline, skated across and unloaded a 45-footer from beyond the left wing circle. Myshkin came out a fair distance to cut the angle, but his mathematics was off and Ramsey's shot sailed past him into the far corner of the net at 6:24.
Barrasso made two tough saves while Trottier served a penalty for boarding Vasily Pervukhin. Later, Barrasso made a fine stop on Alexander Kozhevnikov, after he took Vasiliev's pass on a two-on-one break.
Team USA had a chance when Washington's Dave Christian set up Trottier skating down the middle. After Myshkin made the initial save, there was a battle for the rebound and Carpenter knocked Myshkin into the net. The puck, however, stayed out.
Team USA dropped its cautious style of play early in the third period and began to bounce bodies around.
Zubkov limped off after taking two straight solid blasts into the boards. Then Larionov hobbled to the bench after Ramsey flattened him with a solid blueline check. When Svetlov tried to rack up Buffalo's Phil Housley in retaliation, he missed and crashed into the boards.
Vasiliev got behind Housley and tested Barrasso, who stopped the shot. When Vasiliev skated behind the net, he was decked by Trottier's elbow. After each of these apparent fouls, the Soviets protested in vain to referee Ron Wicks.
Fisticuffs mean automatic ejection and a one-game suspension, so they were noticeably absent. However, when Krutov yanked the stick away from Washington's Bryan Erickson, the Capitals' winger punched him and both were penalized for roughing, to Krutov's obvious disgust. Krutov became even more upset when he returned to the ice and was lifted off his feet by Housley's stick, without a call.
With 10 minutes remaining, Trottier's perfect pass sent Mullen in on a clean breakaway. Mullen was unable to fake Myshkin out of position and shot the puck into the goalie's pads.
Ninety seconds later, Carpenter took Neal Broten's pass from behind the net and lifted a shot over Myshkin's left shoulder from close range. Somehow, the 5-foot-7 goalie reached up and caught it.
With five minutes left, Myshkin made another point-blank save on Minnesota's Brian Lawton, set up by Washington's Dave Christian.