Editor's note: This is the third in a series of occasional posts looking back 40 years to the Miracle on Ice.

Part One: A long, tiring road to Lake Placid

Part Two: Final Olympic tune-up was a big flop on a big stage

While the rest of the athletes prepared to march in the Opening Ceremonies for the 1980 Winter Olympics, hockey teams got action underway a day early in Lake Placid.

Gone was all the build-up. As of this moment each team owned an 0-0-0 record. It was time to drop the puck for keeps.

Team USA’s path toward its miracle began 40 years ago Wednesday, a 2-2 tie with Sweden in a Blue Division game that afterward felt just as good as a win – especially coming just days after a 10-3 embarrassment at the hands of the Russians.

Here are selected accounts from the game, written by Minneapolis Tribune staff writer John Gilbert:

Billy Baker scored big goals at Grand Rapids, Minn., where he helped his team win a state high school championship and at the University of Minnesota, where he was captain of an NCAA champion. And he’ll undoubtedly score more big ones when a career with the Montreal Canadiens begins after these 13th Winter Olympic Games.

But Tuesday night, Baker scored the biggest goal of his life. It gave Team USA a 2-2 tie with Sweden with 27 seconds remaining in its first-round battle at the Olympic Fieldhouse.

Baker’s climatic goal ended the Americans’ game-long pursuit of the anticipated slick, but unexpectedly big and rough Swedish team. Sweden smacked the U.S. players with slid bodychecks and led the game 1-0 and 2-1 until coach Herb Brooks pulled goalie Jim Craig in the final minute.

Baker glided to the slot to meet the pass [from Mark Pavelich] as it arrived, driving a low, 40-foot slap shot cleanly past Sweden’s brilliant young goaltender Pelle Lindbergh. The U.S. bench emptied, burying Baker under a pile of elation. Soviet referee Victor Dombrovski had to filter through a dozen bodies to identify the goal-scorer.

Sweden outshot the United States 36-29 for the game … but the surprisingly sparse crowd at the game exploded on Baker’s shot in the final minute. The small crowd – only about 3,000 of the 8,000 seats in the new arena were filled – may have been caused by reports that the game would be a sellout, coupled with transportation problems with shuttle buses and the 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time start.

“It was a tough time for people to get there,” Brooks said. “But those who were there gave us a big lift.”

Elsewhere:

Czechoslovakia 11, Norway 0

Soviet Union 16, Japan 0

Canada 10, The Netherlands 1

Romania 6, West Germany 4

Poland 5, Finland 4

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