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Six-goal second leads U.S. to rout in opener

by Dan Rosen / Columbus Blue Jackets

SOCHI -- The Americans will take an unlucky goal-against in every game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics if their response is going to be like the one they had Thursday.

Slovakia forward Tomas Tatar got away with going into the zone offside and scored 24 seconds into the second period to tie the game, but the Americans responded with six unanswered goals before the second intermission, blowing what was a tight game wide open en route to a 7-1 throttling of the Slovaks in the tournament opener for both teams at Shayba Arena.

Phil Kessel led the U.S. with three points on a goal and two assists. Paul Stastny scored twice, John Carlson had a goal and an assist and T.J. Oshie, James van Riemsdyk and Patrick Kane each had two assists. Ryan Kesler, Dustin Brown and David Backes also scored for the Americans, who had 11 players finish with at least one point, including Max Pacioretty and Kevin Shattenkirk.

Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in his Olympic debut to help the U.S. beat Slovakia for the first time in the Olympics. The Americans previously had tied the Slovaks in 1994 and lost to them in 2006.

Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak was pulled at the 13:30 mark of the second period after giving up his fifth goal on 25 shots. Peter Budaj came in and allowed goals on the first two shots he faced.

The Americans now have a little less than 48 hours to prepare for their showdown Saturday against Russia at Bolshoy Ice Dome (7:30 a.m., NBCSN, CBC).

Carlson gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with a one-timer from the top of the right circle that he blasted over Halak’s blocker 14:27 into the first period. Kessel delivered a sweet drop pass

The Americans caught a tough break early in the second when Tatar went into the zone offside after Marian Hossa intercepted an errant pass up the left-wing wall by Ryan Suter. Hossa even hesitated as if he was expecting the whistle to blow, but it never did so he gave Tatar the puck and the Detroit Red Wings forward went in and beat Quick on the glove side to tie the game at 1-1.

All that did was ignite the American attack.

Kesler rocketed a one-timer from the top of the right circle past Halak just 62 seconds after Tatar’s goal. Stastny then put home a rebound off Halak’s pads 1:06 later.

The rout was on.

The Slovaks were attempting to sit back and play a defensive game but found themselves overrun by the Americans, who needed 20 minutes and an unlucky break to put a wrench into that game plan.

Backes beat Halak, his St. Louis Blues teammate, at the 8:16 mark when he used his backhand to finish a mad scramble in front of the goalie. Stastny scored his second of the game 5:14 later, redirecting Shattenkirk’s pretty feed from the right circle past Halak.

At this point Slovakia coach Vladimir Vujtek turned to Budaj to stop the bleeding, but 50 seconds into his first Olympic appearance since 2006 he gave up a redirection goal to Kessel, who got his stick down to deflect van Riemsdyk’s shot-pass from the left circle. Brown made it 7-1 57 seconds later when he put a one-timer off a feed from Carlson past Budaj.

Now the Americans can turn their focus to the game everyone here and across the hockey world will be talking about. A win against the Russians on Saturday would give the U.S. a clear path to an automatic berth into the quarterfinals with just Slovenia left in their preliminary-round play.

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