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United States 3, Latvia 3 FINAL

NHL.com @NHL
TURIN, Italy (AP) - With a full roster of NHL players, it took a late goal by Jordan Leopold to salvage a 3-3 tie against Latvia in an opening game for the U.S. hockey team that felt more like a loss.

When the final horn sounded, the Latvian players raised their arms in triumph while the Americans slowly gathered around goalie John Grahame.

Latvia, with only two current NHL players, rallied from an early two-goal deficit and proved U.S. coach Peter Laviolette had every reason to be worried about this opening matchup in Olympic Group B.

Latvia had the luxury of playing mostly as a team in recent weeks, while the U.S. squad was scattered around North America. Only two American players were in Italy by Monday and the team had just one practice before hitting the ice Wednesday night.

Latvia is coming off a ninth-place finish in 2002, when the Americans earned a silver medal at Salt Lake City.

The Latvians had a chance to win the game in the third when Mark Parrish took a 4-minute high-sticking penalty, but their power play was cut short by a Latvian penalty.

Grahame, who made 22 saves, got the start despite not being invited to the Americans' orientation camp in September.

All seemed right for the Americans in the first period, when Brian Gionta scored a power-play goal at 9:44 and Craig Conroy doubled the lead and made goalie Arturs Irbe look bad just 54 seconds later.

Atvars Tribuncovs cut Latvia's deficit to 2-1 with a power-play goal in the first period, and Latvia took over in the second. Poor defensive coverage by the United States yielded numerous odd-man rushes, until Latvia grabbed the lead.

Grahame was forced to dive on his stomach in the crease to grab the puck and stop the pressure with just less than 6 minutes left in the second period. Brian Rolston was sent off for tripping, and Latvia - in the Olympics for just the third time - took advantage.

Dressed in road whites, the Latvians moved the puck from side to side high in the United States zone. Tribuncovs finally slid a shot through the slot, past heavy traffic and under Grahame to tie it.

That sent the Latvian fans into a frenzy as they rose en masse behind each goal. They were still standing 40 seconds later when their team took the lead.

Herberts Vasiljevs carried the puck along the left-wing half boards and steamed into the U.S. zone. He got into wrist shot position, raised his left leg, and let go a shot that beat Grahame over his left shoulder.

In the early going it was Irbe, the former Carolina Hurricanes goalie, who looked shaky. The U.S. took a 1-0 lead on a rising wrist shot by Gionta, then added another goal on a Conroy shot from a bad angle that snuck under Irbe's bent arm.

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