Head Coach Dan Bylsma could not have asked for anything more from his team Thursday as the United States defeated Slovakia, 7-1 in their first game of the preliminary round in Sochi.
Paul Stastny led the charge with a pair of goals as USA scored six of their seven in the second period. Jaroslav Halak who has been having a splendid season with the St. Louis Blues was replaced by Peter Budaj in the second after allowing five goals on 25 shots.
Team USA did not let up at that point as they welcomed Budaj with two goals on two shots by Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown which gave USA their 7-1 lead.
Chemistry on the lines allowed USA to cycle in the offensive zone, not allowing Slovakia to gain much momentum. But when they did get their chances, goaltender Jonathan Quick was there to make key saves throughout the contest. Quick, who was named the starter over Ryan Miller stopped 22 of 23 shots.
Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson got the scoring started at 14:27 of the first period when he took a drop pass from Kessel and fired a slapshot past Halak and USA took an early 1-0 lead.
The lone goal for Slovakia came just 24 seconds into the second period when Tomas Tatar scored on a play that should have been whistled offside. However, USA responded quickly just a minute later when Ryan Kesler of the Vancouver Canucks took a feed from Patrick Kane and ripped it past Halak on a failed attempt to clear by Slovakia. From there, the United States put on a clinic as they controlled the tempo the rest of the way.
One line that stood out the most was the third line of Stastny, TJ Oshie and Max Pacioretty, a trio that may be a force for Bylsma down the stretch. At the same time, Kesler and Kane showed promise and may be skating on the same line as well.
Slovakia certainly had chances in the first period but failed to execute. Halfway through the game, USA was outshooting Slovakia 24-7.
Bylsma’s team will be getting set to take on Russia Saturday at 7:30 am ET.
Ekiert’s Three Stars:
3. Ryan Kesler; USA- 1 Goal, 1 Assist
2. Phil Kessel; USA- 1 Goal, 2 Assists
1. Paul Stastny; USA- 2 Goals