US Men Underway with 7-1 Win Over Slovakia

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

After a feeling out first period, the Americans exploded for six unanswered in the second and cruised to an easy win in their opening game of the group stage.

Final Score: USA 7, Slovakia 1

First Period Recap: Slovakia started by absorbing all the pressure from the US, almost no forecheck whatsoever from the Slovaks but they got a couple of shots off the rush early on, but for the most part all of the offense came from the Americans.

First penalty went against Tomas Marcinko for hitting TJ Oshie from behind in open ice just shy of the halfway mark of the first.  The Slovaks kept the American PP to the outside, giving up only two shots and nothing dangerous.

John Carlson opened the scoring for the US when Milan Bartovic whiffed on a dump in, turning the puck over just outside the sending Phil Kessel, James vanRiemsdyk in against the two defensemen.  Kessel made pretty drop pass to the trailing Carlson and he sent a rocket over the blocker of Jaroslav Halak.

Slovakia's first real chance of the game followed on the next shift when Ryan Suter blocked a Zedeno Chara slap shot and Michal Handzuz got to the second chance.  Jonathan Quick took the shot from his former teammate high off the chest and covered up.

Moments later Richard Panik had all kinds of time and space in the middle of the ice but lost the handle as he tried to go to his backhand around Quick, otherwise it would have been an EASY goal.

Shots finished 11-4 for the US after 20.  Silly side note:  Mike Emrick and Eddie Olczyk  both had trouble with the jersey numbers for the Americans, calling Joe Pavelski Drew Doughty (twice) and confusing Carlson (wearing #4) for his defense partner Cam Fowler (wearing #3).  No shame, it's surprisingly easy to get those mixed up, but the Doughty one was a little rough as Doc admitted the second time he misspoke.

Second Period Recap: Just 24 seconds into the period Tomas Tatar sniped a shot off the bar and in to tie the game for Slovakia.  Ryan Suter misfired on a clearing attempt off the glass which Marian Hossa knocked down and played to Tatar.  Some slight controversy there as Pierre McGuire thought Hossa handled the puck before Tatar touched up the offside.  I don't think he did, but it's tough to tell with the white tape on Hossa's stick.  Quibbles compared to Canada's second goal versus the US in the Women's game yesterday.  Regardless 1-1 less than a minute into the second.

Anyway, the US answered right back with another scorcher of a shot by Ryan Kessler.  Patrick Kane just teed it right up for Kessler at the top of the right circle and he unleashed a bomb to the high stick side of Halak again.

And Team USA extended their lead to two only about a minute later as Ryan Callahan held the zone carried it to the goal line got a pass across the crease to Max Pachioretti whose shot was saved, but rebounded right to Paul Stastny with a wide open net to score against the country of his father's birth.  Two goals in 1:06.

The US went on their second power play of the night when Ren Vydraney went off for tripping Kessler on the Slovakian goal line.  The best scoring chance was Tatar's as he flew around Pavelski shorthanded but Quick cut off the cross crease pass to Bartovic.  However just in the final seconds of the man advantage the US created some chaos around the crease that resulted in a greasy goal by David Backes just as the penalty expired, making it 4-1 for the Americans.

A few minutes later, Slovakia had a scramble around Quick who made the first save awkwardly, then caught a bounce off of the post and luckily the Slovakians couldn't grab the rebound with Quick out of the net.  Right away the US took it back up ice and Kevin Shattenkirk carried all the way to the goal line before feeding Stastny a pass that he tapped through Halak's five hole to for his second of the night, making it 5-1 USA.  That goal ended Halak's night as he was pulled for Peter Budaj.

The first shot Budaj faced made it 6-1 to the US.  Suter's stretch pass to Kessler caught Slovakia on a change, he dropped the puck to JVR trailing the play who shot it to the far post where Kessel deflected it in with just over five and a half remaining in the second.

And Dustin Brown made it 7-1 about a minute later.  He got open in the slot and Calrson hit him with a perfect pass.  The shot went between the legs of the defenseman and over the blocker of Budaj.

Kessel took the first penalty of the game for the Americans with 1:50 left in the period, but the power play was uneventful for the Slovaks, the highlight being a thundering hit by David Bakes on Tomas Kopetcky.

So, not a bad period from the US.

Third Period Recap: After six unanswered goals in the second, the third was largely an exercise in running the clock out for the Americans.  Quick was forced to make a couple of decent saves in the first half.  Stastny had a bid for the hat trick, but couldn't beat Budaj on the blocker side.  But really not much to note in the final frame as the Americans cruised to a 7-1 win.

*****

Good: The immediate response to the Slovakian goal right at the start of the second period was the highlight of a dominant game for the US.

Bad: Not much, as the Americans pretty much controlled the play from start to finish but the only blemish was not getting the shutout for Quick.  Only having a +6 goal differential could come back to bite them in the tie breakers (sarcasm font).

Ugly: As the score would suggest, this category is not really applicable to the US.

*****

3rd MVA: Paul Stastny - On top of his two goals, his line with Max Pacioretti and Oshie did a great job of cycling the puck all game.

2nd MVA: Ryan Kessler - ended up with a goal and an assist and some unexpected chemistry with Patrick Kane (Canucks/Blackhawks you know).

1st MVA: Phil Kessel - Had a goal and two assists, the first of which was probably the prettiest play of the game.

Misc: Tomas Tatar was the best Slovakian BY FAR.  Cam Fowler was quiet, but made no mistakes.  His highlight of the game was a laser of a stretch pass to Patrick Kane in the second, but didn't result in a scoring chance.

Next Game: Saturday, February 15, 4:30am PT vs Russia (who beat Slovenia 5-2 today)

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