HAMILTON, ONTARIO, SEPT. 2 -- Mario Lemieux scored three goals tonight to carry Canada's hockey team to a 3-2 victory over the U.S. team in a Canada Cup contest played with intensity more common at Stanley Cup playoff time in May.

In the next Canada Cup, though, it might be wise to have Canada and the United States play the Soviet Union before they tangle with each other. The two teams banged bodies much of the night, to the delight of a sellout crowd of 17,026, and the bruises could have an effect when they face the Soviets later this week.

"It was a typical game between us -- chippy, dirty and it got out of hand," said U.S. captain Rod Langway. "There must have been 30 stitches spread around {Langway needed five} and it was kind of asinine for a big game like this to get a European ref."

Karl-Gustav Kaisla of Finland was the man with the orange armbands and obviously he is not accustomed to checking for wayward sticks at all points of the compass. He wound up giving Canada six power plays, of which it converted two, and the U.S. only three, which increased its tournament record to zero for 11.

The U.S. team could not blame Kaisla for the key violation of the game, however. The score was tied at 1-1 late in the second period when Corey Millen, a 1988 Olympian replacing injured Joe Mullen, jumped on the ice before Curt Fraser was anywhere near the U.S. bench, resulting in a minor for too many men.

With nine seconds left in the period, Lemieux won a faceoff from Joel Otto in the U.S. end. Wayne Gretzky's shot off the rear boards caromed back to Lemieux. He tucked it into the net with three seconds on the clock.

"That goal really hurt us," Langway said. "Besides that, we played our hearts out and we came up short again. It's tough to give up six power plays when they've got Gretzky and Lemieux and {Mark} Messier out there."

Langway was in the box for interference when Lemieux converted Gretzky's feed from behind the net to make it 3-1 early in the third period.

"It's pretty easy to play with Gretzky, especially on the power play," Lemieux said. "You just get in front and he gives you the puck."

Forty-one seconds later, Millen partially atoned for his earlier mistake, deflecting Gary Suter's drive past Grant Fuhr to make it 3-2.

There was no further scoring, although the United States came close with Washington's Larry Murphy serving a holding penalty. With 2:16 remaining, American Bob Brooke was penalized for tripping to kill any hopes of a last-ditch comeback.

"It was very frustrating," said U.S. goalie John Vanbiesbrouck, who stopped 37 shots. "We didn't get outplayed in any way, shape or form. It boils down to too many men at the end of the second period. But we scored a goal after they got the power play that made it 3-1 and we never gave up. That's a good sign for us."

Lemieux, who wiped out an early U.S. lead with a drive from the right-wing circle early in the second period, was involved in two of the less savory incidents in the game. He chopped down Mike Ramsey behind the play in the first period and he slashed Chris Nilan to precipitate an incident that left all the players paired off in the second.

On that one, teammate Claude Lemieux lured Fraser into throwing a punch in front of Kaisla, offsetting Mario Lemieux's penalty.

"You're not allowed to fight {fighting brings automatic ejection}, so you have some guys doing some things they might not do otherwise," Mario Lemieux said. "It was a dirty game and you have to protect yourself."

Langway was carved on the head by Rick Tocchet's stick and missed the last 8 1/2 minutes of the first period while he was stitched up.

"We got {bad calls} the whole game," said U.S. Coach Bob Johnson. "We expected it, but not that bad. It's a shame when you have a great game like that and you leave the building talking about the ref." Canada lost right wing Kevin Dineen with a badly sprained right ankle in the first period after he was flattened by Suter. Both Paul Coffey of Canada, after being spun against the boards by Bob Carpenter, and American Phil Housley, charged by Tocchet, needed lengthy treatment on the ice.

Canada, which will play Sweden Friday, took over first place with five points. The U.S. shares second at four with the Soviets, its Friday opponent, and the Swedes.

Sweden 4, Czechoslovakia 0: In Regina, Saskatchewan, Peter Lindmark's 28 saves highlighted the Canada Cup victory.

Soviet Union 7, Finland 4: In Halifax, Nova Scotia, Sergei Makarov scored three goals that enabled the Soviet Union team to beat the Finnish team in a Canada Cup game.