CALGARY, FEB. 15 -- Persistence, not panic, paid off for the Czechoslovakian Olympic hockey team tonight and ruined the upset hopes of a U.S. team that twice held three-goal leads.

The Czechs prevailed, 7-5, scoring their final two goals in shorthanded situations to spoil what had started off as a spectacular evening for the U.S. team.

The United States had scored three goals in a 2-minute 41-second span early in the first period and held a 4-1 lead early in the second before the Czechs came all the way back, scoring four goals in the final period.

The game-winner was scored with 5:29 left to play when Dusan Pasek stole the puck near center ice, drew two U.S. defenders toward him, then made a perfect pass to wide open Igor Liba. He shot the puck over the glove of U.S. goalie Mike Richter, who had no chance on the play.

"We got careless, we were thinking offense too much and turned it over," said U.S. Coach Dave Peterson of that goal. Scott Young and Brian Leetch were the two defenders who opted to stay with Pasek, leaving Liba wide open.

The Americans had a power play with 1:16 to play, but Pasek took a carom off the back board on his stick, fired the puck up ice and celebrated giddily when it found the U.S. empty net for a 7-5 lead with nine seconds to play.

The Czechs and Americans are 1-1 in their six-man hockey pool, with the Soviet Union and West Germany leading the pack with 2-0 records. The United States faces an almost must-win situation against the Soviets Wednesday night.

Three teams will go to the medal round from each division.

"Any time you're up with a lead like that, it really hurts to lose it," Richter said. "This puts pressure on us. It's a tight tournament."

The Americans came into this game knowing that how they fared against the Czechs would probably determine their fate. The three times the U.S. Olympic hockey team has beaten Czechoslovakia in Olympic competition, the United States has gone on to win a medal. The five times they played the Czechs and lost, they did not win a medal.

The Americans have had a reputation for scoring goals in bunches, and they did nothing to tarnish that reputation tonight. But they also have a reputation for playing sloppy defense once they get the lead, and that also was born out tonight.

Despite all those goals, few in the sellout crowd could find much fault with Richter, who time and again was faced with point-blank shots, many on two-on-one and breakaway situations. He made 25 saves in all, and it seemed as if almost every one easily could have gone by.

When it was over, Peterson said he was unhappy with two calls that led to the Czechs' tying goal at 5-5.

At the 10-minute mark of the the final period and his team leading, 5-4, Kevin Miller was called for hooking, and 1:25 after that, Lane McDonald was called for slashing Czech goalie Jaromir Sindel, who went down on the ice and seemed to hurt his left hand as he skated to the Czech bench.

The Americans, two men short for 35 seconds, managed to kill off Miller's penalty, but they could not keep the swarming Czechs away from their net. Pasek tied it at 5-5 on a rebound of his own shot at the 12:35 mark, and the Czechs were back in business.

"In all honesty, the penalty call on Miller was questionable, and the second call was ridiculous," Peterson said. "There's no reason to be in that position {two men down}. I thought the officiating was just lousy.

"It was a very disappointing loss, but not a heartbreaking loss. We're big boys; we're not picking up our marbles and going home . . . I'm pleased with our performance. I think we did an outstanding job tonight. This is one of the three best teams in the tournament in terms of talent."

The United States scored tonight on its first three shots against the Czechs' No. 1 goaltender, Dominik Hasek. The goals came in quick succession and gave the Americans a 3-0 lead at the the 6:08 mark of the first period.

At that point, Czech Coach Jan Starsi had seen enough of a goaltender who is considered among the elite netminders in the world. He had sat out his team's 2-1 loss to West Germany Saturday night because of torn stomach muscles that have plagued him the last few months, and that was a factor in his removal in favor of Sindel.

"The {goalie} strategy we chose for this game wasn't the right one," assistant coach Frantisek Pospisil said. " . . . The fact is that his {Hasek} old form is not here and he doesn't play the way he used to."

The Czechs seemed to regroup at that point, but they were down, 4-1, in the second period when Dave Snuggerud scored on a sharply angled shot as he came from behind his own goal at 1:30 of the second period.

But the Czechs cut that deficit to 4-3 on goals by Antonin Stavgana at 13:17 and Vladimir Ruzicka at 15:11 of the second period.

"After we got the lead, we tended to let up a little," said U.S. center Corey Millen. "It was kind of subconscious. We didn't realize we were doing it and it gave them some breathing room."

The Czechs tied at 4-4 on another goal by Stavgana at 4:03 of the third before Scott Fusco, one of two players on the U.S. team from the 1984 team, gave the Americans a 5-4 lead on a power play goal at 6:27. Then it was all Czechoslovakia. Pospisil was asked if he could ever remember the Czech national team coming from three goals behind to win against a quality team in such an international competition.

"I don't remember," he said. "But there's always a first time."

U.S.S.R. 8, Austria 1:

Vladimir Krutov scored twice in the first nine minutes and the Soviet Union produced three goals in a 60-second span of the second period to rout Austria.

Krutov scored the game's first goal on a rebound at 4:34 only to have the Austrians tie it 84 seconds later on a breakaway by Silvester Szybisti -- the first score the Soviets had surrendered in the Games. Szybisti's goal touched off a celebration by the Austrians usually reserved for victories.

Krutov put the Soviets in front for good at 9:01 in the first period. A deflected goal by Sergei Makarov increased the margin to 3-1 at the first intermission.

W. Germany 7, Norway 3:

Gerd Truntschka scored twice and Helmut Steiger added a goal and two assists as West Germany, an upset winner over Czechoslovakia in its opening game, improved to 2-0.

The sixth-seeded Germans next face 11th-seeded Austria on Wednesday.

Staff writer Christine Brennan contributed to this report.