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U.S. DOWNS KOPITAR, SLOVENIA

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia - Behind three goals from Phil Kessel (Madison, Wis./Boston Bruins/University of Minnesota), the U.S. Men's National Team gained a 5-1 victory here tonight over Slovenia in the second preliminary round game for both teams at the 72nd annual International Ice Hockey World Championship.

"I thought we played a solid second and third period after a slow start in the first period," said U.S. Head Coach John Tortorella. "I like our team an awful lot. We still have some things to work on, but we've gotten the job done so far."

Patrick Kane (Buffalo, N.Y./Chicago Blackhawks) staked Team USA to a 1-0 advantage at 11:12 of the opening period. After Zach Parise (Minneapolis, Minn./New Jersey Devils/University of North Dakota) forced a Slovenia turnover in the slot, Dustin Brown (Ithaca, N.Y./L.A. Kings) fed Kane between the circles to account for the fifth straight power-play goal for Team USA in the tournament.

The U.S. took a 2-0 lead 6:48 into the second period when Kessel beat Slovenia netminder Robert Kristan from the side of the left circle with a wrist shot to the blocker side. James Wisniewski (Canton, Mich./Chicago Blackhawks) and Jason Pominville (Buffalo, N.Y./Buffalo Sabres) drew assists on the power-play goal. Kessel scored his second power-play marker of the game at 12:41 when he fired a low wrist shot home from the bottom of the left circle. Peter Mueller (Bloomington, Minn./Phoenix Coyotes) fed Kessel while Paul Martin (Minneapolis, Minn./New Jersey Devils/University of Minnesota) started the play. Anze Kopitar beat U.S. netminder Tim Thomas (Flint, Mich./Boston Bruins/University of Vermont) from the side of the left circle at 16:36 to account for the lone Slovenia goal of the evening. It is the only goal Thomas has given up in the tournament.

Team USA finished the scoring with a pair of third-period goals. Captain Jeff Halpern (Potomac, Md./Tampa Bay Lightning/Princeton University) made a nice move to the center slot before feeding David Booth (Detroit, Mich./Florida Panthers/Michigan State University) for a tap-in at the side of the net at 5:05. Kessel put home his third goal of the night at 9:24 when he converted a pass across the goal mouth from Patrick O'Sullivan (Winston-Salem, N.C./L.A. Kings).

Thomas finished with 11 saves, while Team USA outshot Slovenia 37-12.

The U.S. Men's National Team will practice tomorrow before facing Canada on Tuesday (May 6) at 4:30 p.m. AT.

NOTES: The U.S., with its win tonight, clinched a spot in the qualification round of the IIHF World Championship, regardless of the outcome of Tuesday's (May 6) final preliminary-round game against Canada. The top three teams in each of the four-team groups advance to the qualification round ... Dustin Brown was the last U.S. player prior to Phil Kessel tonight to score three or more goals in IIHF World Championship play. Brown racked up all three of Team USA's goals in its 3-1 win over Norway in preliminary round play at the 2006 IIHF World Championship ... Team USA has won its first two games of the IIHF World Championship in each of the last four years ... All 56 games from the 2008 IIHF Men's World Championship will be broadcast live on WCSN.com . The 2008 U.S. Men's National Team is under the direction of Jim Johannson, USA Hockey's assistant executive director of hockey operations, and a four-member advisory group, including NHL general managers Brian Burke (Anaheim), David Poile (Nashville), Ray Shero (Pittsburgh) and Don Waddell (Atlanta). Tony Rossi, vice president of USA Hockey and its international council chair, oversees all aspects of international competition for USA Hockey.

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