Team USA pounds Slovakia 7-1 in Olympic opener
By GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer February 13, 2014 9:28AM
USA forward Paul Stastny celebrates his goal as Slovakia goaltender Jaroslav Halak looks on during the second period of the 2014 Winter Olympics men's ice hockey game at Shayba Arena, Thursday, Feb. 13, 2014, in Sochi, Russia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
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Updated: February 14, 2014 10:51AM
SOCHI, Russia — Paul Stastny scored twice during a six-goal barrage in the second period, and the United States got off to a spectacular start in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament with a 7-1 victory over Slovakia on Thursday.
Ryan Kesler, David Backes, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown also scored as the Americans battered Slovakia for six consecutive goals in a 13:51 span, turning what was expected to be a tough matchup into a laugher.
Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in his Olympic debut for the U.S., which hopes to improve on its silver-medal finish in Vancouver despite a roster that isn’t thought to have the offensive power of Canada, Russia or Sweden.
In their only warmup for Saturday’s showdown with Russia, the Americans didn’t need scoring stars to leave Slovakia’s two goalies battered.
Jaroslav Halak stopped 20 shots before getting pulled when Stastny tipped home Kevin Shattenkirk’s pass to put the Americans up 5-1. Peter Budaj replaced Halak, but Kessel and Brown scored in the next 1:47.
Tomas Tatar scored for Slovakia, which traveled to Sochi without high-scoring Marian Gaborik and veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky due to injury. But nobody anticipated such a defensive collapse by a roster studded with NHL regulars, including Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Zdeno Chara.
Slovakia’s last two Olympic games have been humiliations: The Slovaks blew a third-period lead and lost to Finland in the bronze medal game in Vancouver, depriving them of their nation’s first Olympic hockey medals.
John Carlson opened the scoring for the U.S. in the first period, and Tatar tied it with a nasty wrist shot in the opening minute of the second. Kesler put the Americans back ahead 1:02 later with a one-timer through Brown’s screen, and Stastny scored 1:06 later on a fat rebound of Max Pacioretty’s shot.
The U.S. didn’t let up until Brown redirected Carlson’s pass to make it 7-1, and the once-boisterous Slovak crowd retreated into silence at Shayba Arena.
Kessel had a goal and two assists, while Patrick Kane, T.J. Oshie and James van Riemsdyk added two assists apiece.
Stastny scored his second goal while Slovakia’s Tomas Marcinko limped off the ice behind the play with an injury.
Stastny is a two-time U.S. Olympian with a famous Slovak father: Hall of Famer Peter Stastny played extensively for the Czechoslovakian and Slovak national teams alongside his lengthy NHL career.
The Americans’ scoring outburst made their goaltending situation seem secondary for a day, but Quick still handled the Slovaks’ chances well. U.S. coach Dan Bylsma waited until Wednesday to choose Quick for the first start in goal over Ryan Miller, who backstopped the Americans to silver medals in Vancouver while winning the tournament MVP award.
Quick, who didn’t get in a game in Vancouver, emerged as one of the world’s top goalies while leading the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup championship in 2012, but he missed seven weeks of the Kings’ current season with a groin injury.