U.S. uses big second period to roll past Slovakia
Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - The United States couldn't have asked for a better start to the 2014 Olympic hockey tournament.
Jonathan Quick made 22 saves and Paul Stastny led an offensive onslaught with a pair of goals, as the Americans used a six-goal second period in a 7-1 pounding of Slovakia on Thursday.
Phil Kessel scored a goal and assisted on two others for the United States, which won a silver medal four years ago in Vancouver and is in search of its first men's hockey gold since the "Miracle on Ice" squad at the Lake Placid Games in 1980.
John Carlson and Ryan Kesler each added a goal and an assist, while David Backes and Dustin Brown also found the net for the Americans in the rout.
"I really like the way we played," said Team USA coach Dan Bylsma. "We had a lot of guys contribute offensively and balanced scoring is important. It was a fun atmosphere here today and I couldn't be more impressed with the job done by everyone involved with all aspects of the Olympics so far. It's been fantastic."
Tomas Tatar scored the lone goal for Slovakia. Jaroslav Halak got the start in net for the Slovaks and was pulled after yielding five goals on 25 shots. Peter Budaj made six saves in relief.
The Americans built a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, but the scoring came fast and furious to start the second period as the teams combined for three goals in a span of just over two minutes.
Slovakia got it started a mere 24 seconds into the stanza. The Slovaks appeared to be offside, but play was allowed to continue and Tatar beat Quick with a shot from the left circle to tie it.
The Americans responded immediately with two goals just 66 seconds apart.
Kesler restored the lead at the 1:26 mark with a one-time blast from the right circle and Stastny scored on a rebound soon after to make it 3-1.
The Unites States kept buzzing around the Slovak net and Backes was credited with a goal at 8:16 just after an American power play expired. Stastny then netted his second of the game with 6:30 left in the period for a 5-1 cushion.
Budaj took over for Halak, but it didn't matter much as Kessel tapped in a James van Riemsdyk shot 50 seconds later and Dustin Brown scored on a shot from the slot less than a minute afterward to make it a laugher.
The Americans cruised in a scoreless third period and will have a day off before a big matchup Saturday with Russia.
Slovakia will return to the ice Saturday against Slovenia.
The Americans dominated most of the first period and came away with a 1-0 lead on Carlson's goal with 5:33 remaining. He took a drop pass from Kessel at the top of the right circle and rifled a shot over Halak's shoulder into the top left corner of the net.
Slovakia had a great chance moments later when Richard Panik came late on a rush and had room in the slot, but the puck slid off his backhand and went wide of the net with Quick out of position.