HAMILTON, ONTARIO, SEPT. 6 -- Wayne Gretzky's goal with 2:27 left enabled Canada to tie the Soviet Union, 3-3, tonight and finish first in the round-robin phase of the Canada Cup.
Gretzky connected on a rebound from the goal mouth after Soviet goaltender Evgeny Belosheikin had blocked two close-up shots by Glenn Anderson.
Canada's semifinal opponent Wednesday in Montreal will be Czechoslovakia, which eliminated the United States today, 3-1. The Soviets, with seven points to Canada's eight, play Sweden here Tuesday, a team that defeated them in the tournament opener.
The Soviets, frustrated by goalie Grant Fuhr's 16-save effort in the first period, scored three times in the first nine minutes of the second for a 3-1 lead.
Canada took advantage of an interference call against Vasili Pervukhin to close to 3-2. Ray Bourque enjoyed a goal-mouth tap in as the beneficiary of some dazzling passes by Mark Messier and Gretzky.
In the third period, Canada fired 16 shots at Belosheikin, the surprise choice as the Soviet goalie. Belosheikin, beaten by Sweden, had not played since, while Sergei Mylnikov won three in a row. But Belosheikin is rated No. 1 and he played like it in that final period.
Messier began the tying play with a centering pass out of the right-wing corner. Anderson deflected the puck and batted it again after Belosheikin blocked it. The goalie had no chance when Gretzky shoved it across the line.
Canada almost won the game a few seconds later, as Gretzky's pass from behind the Soviet net was on target to Washington's Larry Murphy skating in. But Belosheikin smothered Murphy's shot.
"I'll save it for Wednesday," Murphy said. "We needed a tie to finish first and that was our objective at the beginning of the round robin."
Sergei Svetlov scored twice for the Soviets, including a shorthanded effort at 8:15 of the second period that boosted the score to 3-1 and put Canada in a precarious position.
Adding to the host team's woes was a strained knee ligament that forced winger Rick Tocchet out on the first shift of the second period. Canada already was without three injured players: defenseman James Patrick and wingers Michel Goulet and Kevin Dineen.
"We were shorthanded in terms of manpower and playing a very, very strong team," said Coach Mike Keenan. "To come from behind was a great effort on our part."
The National Hockey League club did have a measure of help from another NHLer, referee Mike Noeth. In a very one-sided contest, Noeth awarded Canada five power plays, the Soviets none.
"We were little angels out there," said Washington winger Mike Gartner, unable to hide a smile.
The Soviets were laughing, too, no doubt because this game essentially was meaningless, with the big ones beginning Tuesday.
Although Canada probably committed a dozen fouls that deserved Noeth's notice, he ignored all but a pair of stick violations that were offset by Soviet penalties.
"We know already this referee," Soviet assistant coach Igor Dimitriev said through an interpreter. "In the first game we played I said I thought he was tired. Now I take my words back. He's probably not tired; he's just not a referee."
Canada had two extra-man chances almost back to back in the third period, with the score, 3-2. The second resulted from a bench penalty called by linesman Kevin Collins because Coach Viktor Tikhonov grabbed him by the arm.
In Sydney, Nova Scotia tonight, Vladimir Ruzicka, Dusan Pasek and Jiri Hrdina each scored as Czechoslovakia defeated the United States.
The United States finished fifth in the six-team competition. The United States lost three in a row after starting with victories over Finland and Sweden.
Chris Nilan of the NHL Montreal Canadiens scored the only goal for the United States, which outshot Czechoslovakia, 37-25.