The trek for Olympic gold in Sochi began Thursday for both Aleksander Barkov and Tomas Kopecky and their tournaments’ started off in drastically different fashions.
Barkov, along with Team Finland doubled up Austria 8-4 with Barkov picking up an assist while winning 85% of his face-offs and centering the top line between Mikael Granlund and Finnish great Teemu Selanne. Kopecky and Slovakia were on the wrong end of a 7-1 score, falling to the United States.
In the first game of the day in Sochi, Finland fell behind 36 seconds in off a goal from Austria's Mikael Grabner, his first of three in the game, and trailed 2-1 halfway through the first period. They responded by scoring the next five goals through the next period and a half for a 6-2 lead after the second. Ahead 6-3 in the third, Barkov set up Jarkko Immonen for a power play goal with 8:35 remaining.
Barkov, the youngest Finnish player in the tournament, finished the game with that power play assist and won 11 of his 13 draws while finishing a plus-2 in a strong Olympic opener. Prior to Sochi, the Flying Finn had competed for Finland in two World Junior tournaments.
A huge second period by the Americans turned a close game into a rout against the Slovakians as they struck for six goals in the middle stanza on their way to a 7-1 win. The US held a 1-0 lead after one thanks to a blast from Washington Capitals’ defenseman John Carlson at 5:33 into the period.
Tomas Tatar and Slovakia evened the score just 24 ticks into the second period but after conceding the goal, the US responded in a huge way tallying three in the ensuing 2:08. The floodgates opened when Ryan Kesler and Paul Stastny scored a little over a minute apart and the US kept rolling with additional goals from David Backes, Stasny, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown. By the end of the second period the US had stretched their lead to 7-1.
Centering the second line between Tomas Jurco and Branko Radivojevic, Kopecky finished with 17:37 of ice time while winning 5 of his 13 draws.
The Finns are right back at it on Friday, taking on Norway at noon ET (MSNBC) while Slovakia returns to action on Saturday at 3am ET against Slovenia (MSNBC).