CALGARY, FEB. 17 -- Try as they might, the feisty United States Olympic hockey players simply could not create another miracle on ice tonight.
Charging back from a four-goal deficit to come within one with 10:52 to play, the Americans eventually fell to the might of the Soviet Union's team, losing by 7-5 before a capacity crowd estimated at 19,000 at the Saddledome.
For more than eight gripping minutes in the last period, the United States stood within that one goal of tying a game few gave them a chance of winning. It had been eight years since these teams met in the Olympics, eight years since the United States' 4-3 upset at Lake Placid. The entire U.S. team is new, but six Soviets, including team captain Viacheslav Fetisov, played on that 1980 team that lost to the Americans.
So it was a measure of revenge when Fetisov backhanded a shot between the legs of Chris Terreri to score the Soviets' seventh goal and put the game out of reach with 2:01 left, ending the Americans' flickering hopes. It was Fetisov's second goal of the evening. He had three assists.
The loss left the exciting if unpredictable U.S. team in fourth place in the six-team Blue Division with a 1-2 record. The Soviets are 3-0. The Americans must win their remaining two games against Norway (0-3) Friday night and West Germany (3-0) Sunday night to have a chance to advance to the medal round. Three teams from each of the two divisions will play in that round.
"We can still get to the medal round," Terreri said. "We just can't quite get it over the hump, but we're a tough bunch of guys."
The game had all the trappings of a blowout going into the third period, with the U.S.S.R. ahead by 6-2. But in an electrifying five-minute, 53-second run early in that period, the Americans unexpectedly made a charge that brought back, ever so briefly, thoughts of another upset.
The three-goal barrage began with 3:15 gone in the third period, when Lane MacDonald scored on a rebound off Scott Young's shot to bring the U.S. team within 6-3. It became 6-4 on Scott Fusco's single-handed effort from the red line, skating in and firing past Sergei Mylnikov's left shoulder with 5:47 gone. Then, with 9:08 gone, Todd Okerlund finally got control of the puck that was stuck between the sprawled goaltender's legs and punched it into the net just before he himself fell into the goal. He got out of the net to fall into his teammates' arms. The U.S. team was back in the game.
For the next eight minutes, the United States played at a fever pitch, but the Soviets, stunned by the turnaround, rose to the occasion, just as they had done twice in the second period when the Americans closed within a goal. As the United States surged up the ice, Terreri watched and waited for the tying goal that never came.
"If we had tied it up, I think we might have won the game," he said. "At 6-5, as the game went on, it was frustrating to a point because we had so many chances."
The U.S. team's best opportunity to tie came with 7:34 left, when star defenseman Brian Leetch hit the post on a slap shot. An inch closer, and the game would have been even.
But it was not to be. Fetisov scored his goal 5 1/2 minutes later, and it was all over. With 1:51 to play, the United States pulled Terreri to put an extra skater on the ice, to no avail. A controversial faceoff delay led U.S. Coach Dave Peterson to exclaim: "They have to cheat to win." This comment was caught by an ABC-TV microphone.
Later, assistant coach Ben Smith said, "I think you heard it wrong. It was yapping between the benches."
The way the first two periods went, it was remarkable the United States was in the game at the end.
The Soviets scored their first goal when Fetisov picked up a U.S. pass off the boards deep in the Soviet end and flicked a pass to Sergei Makarov near center ice. Makarov, another '80 alumnus, sped behind U.S. defensemen Greg Brown and Jeff Norton, who never got a stick near him, and angled right for Terreri in the U.S. goal.
Makarov faked four times, drawing Terreri to his knees. When he finally took his shot, he easily slipped it in on Terreri's stick side. The Soviets led, 1-0.
Soon, it was 2-0. With Leetch standing in the penalty box, waiting out the final three seconds of a tripping penalty called 21 seconds after the first U.S.S.R. goal, the Soviet power play worked to perfection. Alexei Kasatonov, the last of four Soviets to handle the puck in the American zone, drove a shot by Terreri's right shoulder with 9:41 gone in the game.
Things brightened considerably for the United States early in a furious second period. With 90 seconds gone, MacDonald scored to bring the U.S. within 2-1. Brown went to his knees to stop a Soviet pass near center ice, then passed to MacDonald, who beat Mylnikov to the delight of most in the pro-U.S. crowd.
But when the game was over, Soviet assistant coach Igor Dmitriyev said he saw no comparisons to what happened in Lake Placid:
"A great time has gone by."