When Team Canada and the Soviet Union meet in Northlands Coliseum Monday night, they will have a difficult time matching the level of hockey in the Soviets' 2-1 Saturday night victory over Team USA. Topping the attendance, though, will be no problem.
A crowd announced as 5,515 was privy to a memorable contest in which 5-foot-7 Vladimir Myshkin demonstrated that the retirement of legendary Vladislav Tretiak has not left the Soviets with a vulnerable Achilles' heel in the goal.
Four superb saves by Myshkin in the last 10 minutes maintained the Soviets' unbeaten status in the Canada Cup tournament and made Team USA a loser for the first time. Of the four, three were merely sensational; his glove save on Washington's Bob Carpenter was beyond written superlative.
Carpenter was just outside the crease when he took Neal Broten's pass from behind the net and lifted a shot over Myshkin's left shoulder. Before Carpenter could raise his stick in celebration, Myshkin's left arm had reached back to glove it.
"Half of this save was my luck and half was my reaction and experience," Myshkin said through an interpreter.
Carpenter was more awed than upset.
"I can't complain; he made a great save," the Capitals forward said. "He was so quick. He went from his left side to his right side and back to his left in one second. If you miss the net, then you're angry at yourself. But how can you be mad when a guy makes a save like that?"
Shortly before Carpenter's shot, Myshkin foiled a breakaway by Joe Mullen of St. Louis, holding his position and forcing Mullen to shoot into his pads. Later, he stopped close-range setups by Minnesota's Brian Lawton and Hartford's Mark Johnson, the latter with only 46 seconds remaining.
Asked about Mullen's breakaway, Myshkin said, "Hockey is just a game and this was my lucky evening. When it is one against one, we have equal chances. Tonight I won; we'll see who wins tomorrow. If a goalie is afraid, there will be no good performance and no good result."
Myshkin, 29, spent a long time in Tretiak's shadow, but he has played in four World Championships, shut out the NHL All-Stars in the decisive game of the 1979 Challenge Cup and replaced Tretiak during the historic Olympic loss to the United States at Lake Placid in 1980.
Asked if he ever had been so severely tested in the third period of a major international game, Myshkin paused, shook his head and said, "I don't remember."
Soviet Coach Victor Tikhonov, slow to praise anyone, was asked about Myshkin's performance and said, "I appreciate very much the skill level of Myshkin in this game, because I think thanks to Myshkin we stayed on this score."
Myshkin, asked about the difficulty of replacing Tretiak, said, "My teammates help me during the game and for my part, I try not to make them think Tretiak is absent."
A 45-footer by Buffalo's Mike Ramsey in the second period provided the only Team USA goal. It was the second allowed by Myshkin in three Canada Cup games.
The Soviet scorers were Sergei Makarov, on a sweep from behind the net, and Mikhail Varnakov, after goalie Tom Barrasso of Buffalo mishandled Alexander Skvortsov's pass into the crease.
Barrasso was outstanding once again, although he suffered a bruised knee and may be replaced by New Jersey's Chico Resch when Team USA plays West Germany in Calgary Monday.
"I banged the knee in the first period and I had trouble getting up a few times late in the game," Barrasso said. "I don't think it's anything serious."
Barrasso kept Team USA in contention for two periods, then in the third the Americans took control with some heavy hitting, only to be foiled by Myshkin.
Ramsey and Washington's Rod Langway delivered some devastating checks, leaving Soviets lying on the ice or complaining bitterly to referee Ron Wicks. On one play, neatly documented in a color photo in today's Edmonton Journal, Langway flattened both Makarov and Vladimir Krutov.
"You have to pick your spots against the Russians," Langway said. "If you're not careful, you won't have an opponent to hit, they're so fast. But they don't bump, so if you bump them, it saves you energy. Even though they play at such a high tempo, I find that playing Team Canada takes more out of me, because I know I'll be bumped."
Fighting results in ejection and suspension for the next game, so tempers rarely explode. However, Washington's Bryan Erickson threw a punch when his stick was swiped by Krutov and Wicks judiciously penalized both players for roughing.
"I just kind of put my hand in his face," Erickson said, laughing. "We had enough chances to win and I felt we deserved a tie for sure. I just hope we get a chance to play them again."
The Soviets (4-0) are assured of finishing first in the round-robin phase, which ends Monday. They will face the fourth-place team, to be determined by Monday's play, while No. 2 meets No. 3. The other semifinalists are Team USA and Team Canada (both 2-1-1) and Sweden (2-2). West Germany and Czechoslovakia (both 0-3-1) are out of contention.
Despite small crowds, tournament chairman Alan Eagleson said the Canada Cup would generate a profit of at least $1 million. However, Eagleson said Canada's 7-2 victory over Czechoslovakia Saturday probably saved the tournament, because if Canada had not qualified for the semifinals, the resulting recriminations would have made it difficult to assemble a Canadian team in 1988.