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U.S. Upsets Russia in Hockey

May 1, 2000

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia (AP) _ Goalie Bob Esche turned in the best performance of his career as the United States upset Russia 3-0 Monday night at the World Hockey Championships in a game that ended with fans pelting the ice.

It was the second biggest shutout loss ever for a Soviet Union or Russian team in the championships.

Ottawa Senators holdout Alexei Yashin, who was cleared to play in the championships Sunday by an arbitrator in New York, played his first game of the season, but did not make an impact on the Russian team.

``It was a heavy game for us,″ Yashin said. ``We knew we had to win and that was pressure on our minds. The U.S. team used that very well. Their win was well-deserved.″

``We lost mostly because of lack of hunger and spirit,″ Russian coach Alexander Yakushev said.

The fans littered the ice with cans, plastic bottles and other items. Two high Russian officials, St. Petersburg vice governor Gennady Tkachkov and Russian Hockey Federation president Alexander Steblin, apologized to the U.S. delegation.

``We are very sorry and we’ll make sure it won’t happen again,″ Steblin said.

The Americans did not seem to be upset and did not plan to file a protest, organizers said.

``We’re not mad,″ coach Lou Vairo said. ``We’re just happy that the puck bounced our way tonight.″

Playing before a noisy sellout crowd of 12,350 in the new Ice Palace, Jason Blake, Phil Housley and Dave Legwand scored for the American team, which had only three practices before the championships.

Esche, who played for the Springfield Falcons of the American Hockey League this season, got the starting assignment by Vairo after Damian Rhodes yielded three goals in the opener against Switzerland.

Esche stopped 44 shots, including some sparkling saves.

Russia, which has not medaled in the past six championships, put together a powerful roster for the tournament that included this season’s NHL goal-scoring leader, Pavel Bure of the Florida Panthers.

But Bure, who scored twice in Russia’s 8-1 victory over France in Saturday’s opener, was a disappointment against the Americans. In the first period, the hot-tempered Bure drew a double-minor.

Blake made it 1-0 early in the second period when he knocked in a rebound past goalie Ilia Bryzgalov after a slap shot by Mike Peluso. The Los Angeles Kings’ forward had missed two point-blank chances after solo breakaways earlier in the game.

Housley made it 2-0 at 11:13 with a dazzling wraparound for his second goal in the tournament.

The Americans, who tied Switzerland 3-3 in their first game, made it 3-0 early in the third period as Legwand, of the Nashville Predators, skated unchecked into the Russian zone and beat Bryzgalov with a wrist shot to the stick side.

Only 13 NHL players accepted invitations to play for Team USA. The rest are minor leaguers, collegians and European-based players.

In other games, Olympic and world champion Czech Republic defeated Japan 6-3, and France beat Switzerland 4-2.

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