Dave King, the coach of the Canadian Olympic hockey team, stood in front of a TV monitor in a small room beneath the Forum, counting the red, white and blue jerseys on the ice.
One, two, three, four, five, six, seven . . . Seven?!
King shook his head. "The Americans come up with new tactics every game," he said wryly. "The Russians aren't the leaders anymore. The U.S. are the leaders now. They've got the Soviets beat."
Saturday, before a crowd of 6,555, Team USA didn't beat anybody. They did, however, rally from a 5-2 first-period deficit to tie Canada, 5-5, on goals by Corey Millen and Kevin Miller in the last 4:55. Miller's goal came with 21 seconds left, when Team USA had not only one extra skater after pulling goalie Mike Richter, but two, when on a late line change two players jumped onto the ice for the one who came off.
"I wasn't counting," U.S. Coach Dave Peterson deadpanned.
Neither, obviously, were referee Mark Rudolph or linesmen Kerry Blair and Mark Lachapelle.
"But then, maybe your arithmetic is better than mine," Peterson allowed to reporters.
All those bright college minds on the U.S. team, including three Harvard men, and they flunk simple addition?
"Pretty scary, isn't it?" laughed Richter, who survived a frightful first-period barrage of 25 shots to shut out Canada the rest of the way.
"I didn't find out till afterward," Richter said, "and we're laughing now, but it could have been huge. What if we got caught in something like that? I shudder to think about it."
There were shudders aplenty in the first period, when Team USA--which was playing without top defenseman Brian Leetch (pulled groin)--appeared bent on showing why a major deodorant is a team sponsor. Serge Boisvert, a Montreal Canadiens farmhand and one of three Team Canada players who sport a Stanley Cup ring, had two goals and an assist in the period.
Trent Yawney (a power-play goal) and Ken Yaremchuk (on a 2-on-1) scored 35 seconds apart to break a 1-1 tie. Jim Johannson, on a nice setup by Corey Millen, beat Canadian goalie Sean Burke from point-blank range to make it 3-2, but then Boisvert stole the puck from U.S. defenseman Eric Weinrich near the left faceoff circle and walked in alone to beat Richter.
Thirty-nine seconds later, it was Boisvert again, taking the puck away from defenseman Jeff Norton and setting up Brian Bradley for about a 10-foot putt past Richter. Canada led, 5-2.
Peterson, obviously, had plenty of material for a between-periods monologue of ear-splitting proportions, but he opted to pass.
"We had a lot of problems in the first period, but Canada was coming at us pretty good," Peterson said. "But it would have been very unfair to climb on their frames.
"It made a lot more sense to approach it in a factual manner."
That's not to say that Peterson's blood pressure wasn't rising.
"I think the more he thought about it, the more he was ready to rant and rave," Richter said. "But I'm glad he didn't.
"We were embarrassed, and we weren't happy about it. I think we showed that."
Peterson had been an assistant on the 1984 U.S. team, which never displayed a comeback capability.
"Today, we gained a good lesson," he said. "We were down, and it looked pretty dismal, but you never know what's going to happen. Hockey's a funny game, and 40 minutes is an awfully long time."
Left wing Kevin Stevens scored the only goal of the second period at 14:09 to make it 5-3, ably assisted by Scott Young.
Young broke up a Canadian 2-on-1 at his blue line, then hustled back up ice to take a pass from Miller in the right faceoff circle, from where he delivered the puck to Stevens in the slot.
Richter, who played at Wisconsin for two years and is a second-round draft choice of the New York Rangers, then stopped a couple of Canadian chances on a power-play after Guy Gosselin was whistled off for tripping, three minutes into the final period.
Richter almost was done in by the ever-treacherous Forum boards when he came out of the nets to retrieve the puck, only to have it carom directly in front to Wally Schreiber. Somehow, Richter recovered to make the save.
On another open net, Richter got some help, which he was reminded of while talking with reporters.
"Make sure you mention my pad save," Miller cracked as he walked by.
Richter rolled his eyes. "I'll never hear the end of that," he said, "but I owe my life to Kevin Miller."
Not to mention Saturday's tie. Millen, one of two holdovers from the '84 team (Scott Fusco is the other), shot down the right side, swooped around defenseman Serge Roy, went to his backhand and slipped the puck through Burke's pads. It was 5-4, Canada, at 15:05.
Burke stopped a shot by Miller with 1:47 left and held the puck, and Peterson called a timeout to plot final strategy.
Then, 86 seconds later, Young found Miller alone in the left circle; he let fly with a 25-foot slap shot, and seven pairs of U.S. hands shot into the air.
Just call it American ingenuity. And what will Peterson think when he sees the replay on TV tonight?
"I don't watch ESPN," he said, "and I don't read what you guys write."