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Hull and Leetch teamed for key goal in '96 World Cup

by John McGourty
How appropriate that Brian Leetch and Brett Hull will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 9 in Toronto as members of the Class of 2009.

Hull and Leetch will join Steve Yzerman and Luc Robitaille at the induction ceremony, along with New Jersey Devils President, CEO and General Manager Lou Lamoriello, who was elected in the Builder category.

Hull and Leetch combined for one of the greatest goals in U.S. hockey history in Game 3 of the 1996 World Cup of Hockey final when Hull redirected Leetch's wrist shot past Team Canada goalie Curtis Joseph to tie the score at 2-2. Tony Amonte scored the game and series winner 43 seconds later. Derian Hatcher made it 4-2 when he intercepted Vincent Damphousse's centering pass to Wayne Gretzky and shot it down the ice into an empty net. Adam Deadmarsh beat Joseph with 17 seconds left to seal the United States' 5-2 victory.

The U.S. won Olympic hockey gold in 1960 and 1980, but the 1996 World Cup of Hockey was contested among NHL professionals and thus was the highest possible level of hockey.

The 1996 World Cup of Hockey replaced the Canada Cup as the biggest stage for professional international hockey. Team USA beat Canada, 5-3, in the North American Group to advance to the semifinal where they beat the Russians, 5-2. to advance to the final. Canada downed Germany, 4-1, to advance to the semifinal, then beat Sweden, 3-2, in double overtime to set up an all-North American final.

Canada turned the tables on Team USA in the first game of the three-game final series, winning 4-3 in Philadelphia, but the United States bounced back to beat Canada 5-2 in Game 2 in Montreal.
"Hull was skating in one direction and reaching back the opposite way and deflected it down. That gave us some life." -- Brian Leetch on Brett Hull's tying goal in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey
Canada was leading 2-1 in the third period of Game 3 at Montreal when American Scott Young forced the puck into Canada's defensive zone, along the right boards. Canada's Claude Lemieux attempted a hard-around, behind-the-net clearing attempt that Leetch intercepted at the left point. Leetch launched a slap shot toward Canada's net that Hull deflected with his stick behind his back as he skated out of the left corner. The puck dropped suddenly and went under Joseph's skates into the net.
"We had been kept in the game by Mike Richter, who was doing all he could keep us in it," Leetch recalled. "They had the lead and we were doing our best to put pressure on them. It wasn't easy.

"Hull was skating in one direction and reaching back the opposite way and deflected it down. That gave us some life."

It was an incredible display of hand-eye coordination by Hull, ranking in skill level with his deflection of Nicklas Lidstrom's shot with 1:24 left in Game 3 of the 2002 Stanley Cup Final. Carolina was poised to take a 2-1 series lead with Game 4 in Raleigh. Instead, Igor Larionov scored at 14:47 of the third overtime and Detroit won the next two games to give Hull his second Stanley Cup in four years.

Three of the 2009 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees, Hull, Leetch and Steve Yzerman, participated in the 1996 World Cup of Hockey final -- and 2009 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner John Davidson broadcast the series with Mike Emrick, the 2008 Hewitt winner.

"I think there was some question that that goal might have been a high stick, wasn't it?" Yzerman said during the Hockey Hall of Fame teleconference, teasing Leetch, Hull and Lamoriello by recalling the officials' review of the goal. "I remember it very well. I was sitting on the bench, we were leading late in the third period, Canadian flags were waving everywhere. It was an awesome scene and then it changed very dramatically.

"It was an amazing turn of events. We felt we played a great game but Mike Richter was outstanding and before we knew it, it was 5-2 and it had slipped away from us."

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