- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2002

PROVO, Utah (AP) In his three trips to the Olympics, Dominik Hasek has seen only one goalie dominate a game the way Nikolai Khabibulin did against the Czech Republic yesterday.
"He had the same success that I did four years ago," Hasek said. "It's not an easy thing."
Khabibulin made 41 saves in an overwhelming performance, outdueling Hasek and sending Russia into the semifinals with a 1-0 victory that eliminated the defending champions from the Czech Republic.
Maxim Afinogenov scored the only goal in the second period of a rematch of the 1998 gold-medal game in Nagano, won 1-0 by the Czechs on the strength of Hasek's outstanding play. Hasek allowed just six goals in six games in Japan, culminating with a shutout that he called the highlight of his career.
Once again, the longtime rivals' meeting was decided by goaltending but this time, Khabibulin put aside three days of mediocre play with a display of puck-stopping that could only be described as, well, Hasek-like.
In the midst of an NHL season in which Khabibulin has begun to supplant Hasek as the world's top goalie, the dominance of the "Bulin Wall" was appropriate if unexpected.
Though Khabibulin said the win didn't mean as much as Hasek's gold-medal victory, he now seems capable of carrying his nation to gold just as Hasek did four years ago.
"This game meant a lot to us," said Khabibulin, cool and nearly indifferent after the game. "We really didn't want to go home after today. … You can't tell if you're going to have a shutout or not. You just go out there and do your best."
Khabibulin was at his best in the frantic final minute, when he made a breathtaking series of saves on point-blank chances for the Czechs. Patrik Elias, Petr Sykora and Jaromir Jagr were denied in the final 10 seconds during a wild scrum.
After Russia won a faceoff in its own zone with four seconds left and cleared the puck, Khabibulin pumped his pads in the air before he was mobbed by his teammates.
Afterward, Hasek, 37, said the game was his final international appearance for the Czech Republic.
"I am very disappointed, but I also feel proud because of the way we played," Hasek said. "Both teams had great chances, and I think we had even more great chances. One goal was the difference."
The game marked the highest point yet in Khabibulin's turbulent career, which included a nearly two-season holdout from the Phoenix Coyotes. This year, he is having an All-Star season for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
"We know Nikolai is one of the No.1 goalies in the world," Russian coach Slava Fetisov said. "He has had a great season this year. As a person, he is a fighter. He is never satisfied."
After allowing nine goals in his first three games and enduring plenty of criticism, Khabibulin made 16 saves in the third period to carry the Russians into tomorrow's semifinals, when they'll face the United States in a rematch of last weekend's 2-2 draw.


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