Originally created 04/27/04

United States ties Slovakia for first point



OSTRAVA, Czech Republic -- Richard Park and Ryan Malone each scored power-play goals for the United States, which earned its first point in the hockey world championships Monday by tying Slovakia 3-3.

The Americans looked better in their second game of the tournament, following a sluggish 4-2 loss to Finland on Saturday, and nearly skated off with a victory.

Former NHL defenseman Richard Lintner salvaged the tie for Slovakia when he slapped a shot from the point past goalie Ty Conklin at 13:08 in the second period.

Erik Westrum of the Phoenix Coyotes scored the United States' other goal.

The Americans came into the championships having not played for two weeks, following the end of the NHL regular season, and the layoff showed in the tournament opener.

"Our team performed much better than in the game against Finland," United States coach Peter Laviolette said. "We played better hockey. Slovakia played hard. Our guys played hard."

Park, a forward with the Minnesota Wild, nearly scored a short-handed goal late in the third period. He got the puck at center ice and skated in alone, but Jan Lasak made an outstanding pad save to preserve the tie.

Also scoring for Slovakia, which has 12 NHL players on its roster, were Pavol Demitra of the St. Louis Blues and former St. Louis forward Lubos Bartecko.

With the tie, the Americans could avoid another dismal performance. Last year in Finland, the United States didn't survive the preliminary round and wound up 13th in the 16-team tournament.

A boisterous, flag-waving crowd of mostly Slovaks who made the short trip over the Czech border made it look like a home game for Slovakia.

"The fans were tremendous, the atmosphere was outstanding," Laviolette said.

Slovakia, which won its only world title in Sweden three years ago, finished third last year, beating archrival Czech Republic in the bronze-medal game.

In Prague, Martin Rucinsky of the Vancouver Canucks had a hat trick in the Czech Republic's 7-0 victory over Kazakhstan. Jaromir Jagr opened the scoring less than three minutes in, and the unbeaten Czechs took a 5-0 lead after the first period.

Petr Prucha added two goals, and David Vyborny also scored. Tomas Vokoun earned the shutout.

Earlier, Olli Jokinen scored two goals as Finland recorded 53 shots in an easy 5-1 victory over Ukraine.

Latvia's Arturs Irbe and Germany's Olaf Kolzig both delivered top notch goaltending in a 1-1 tie.