The men's Olympic hockey tournament got off to a rousing start on Wednesday in Torino, Italy, with eight New York Rangers players taking part in three of the day's six games.
With four Rangers players on its roster, the Czech Republic boasts the most Blueshirts of any team at this tournament. NHL scoring leader Jaromir Jagr had the biggest day of all four Rangers, leading the Czechs to a 4-1 win over Germany with a goal and an assist.
In other action involving Rangers on Wednesday, Ville Nieminen helped Team Finland beat Switzerland 5-0, and Marcel Hossa made his Olympic debut in Slovakia's 5-3 win over a Russian team that included Rangers Darius Kasparaitis and Fedor Tyutin, who had an assist on Russia's third goal.
The ninth Rangers player in the Olympics, goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, got the day off as Sweden dominated Kazakhstan 7-2. Lundqvist, tabbed as the Swedes' No. 1 goalie for this tournament, will start against Russia on Thursday.
Both Team Canada and Team USA played games that did not involve any Rangers players. Canada routed host Italy 7-2, and the U.S. tied Latvia 3-3 on goals by Brian Gionta, Craig Conroy and Jordan Leopold.
Since Lundqvist did not play in the tournament's opening game, the first Rangers player to take the ice in Torino was Nieminen, who had one shot on goal in the third period. The Finns coasted to their 5-0 win on two-goals apiece from Teemu Selanne and Olli Jokinen, plus a goal by veteran defenseman Teppo Numminen.
Throughout the Olympics, three of the Rangers' players' -- Jagr, Martin Rucinsky and Marek Malik -- wore the same jersey numbers they wear for the Blueshirts. Straka, is wearing his traditional Czech national team number of 28, rather than 82, which he wears in the NHL. Straka wore 28 when the Czechs won the gold medal at Nagano in 1998.
Jagr scored the Czechs' third goal late in the final period, becoming the first Rangers player to tally in the 2006 Olympics. It was the fourth goal of his Olympic career and his second point of the game. He and Straka earlier assisted on the second of Tomas Kaberle's two power play goals, with Straka setting up Kaberle in the slot.
Kaberle opened the scoring against German goalie Olaf Kolzig early in the second period after Germany took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal late in the first.
The Czechs suffered a setback early in the game, when goaltender Dominik Hasek of the Ottawa Senators left with an injury. He was replaced in net by Tomas Vokoun.
The tournament opened at 5:35 ET today with a game between Sweden and Kazakhstan. The Swedes opted to start backup Stefan Liv in goal over Lundqvist of the Rangers. With five games in the next seven days, Sweden wanted to give Lundqvist a rest before the team's showdown with Russia on Thursday.
Sweden didn't need Lundqvist in the opener as it cruised past Kazakhstan 7-2 in the Torino Esposizioni. Daniel Tjarnqvist had two goals for the Swedes, who also got goals from Daniel Alfredsson, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, P.J. Axelsson and Mats Sundin.
Slovakia, coached by Marcel Hossa's father, Frantisek Hossa, scored something of an upset in beating Russia. The Slovaks went up 1-0 early on a goal by Marcel's older brother Marian, but the Russians came back to take a 2-1 first-period lead on goals by Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk and former Ranger Alexei Kovalev.
Pavol Demitra scored early in the second period to pull the Slovaks into a 2-2 tie, but Alexander Ovechkin came right back to make it 3-2 for the Russians before Peter Bondra got Slovakia back into it power-play goal at 13:05 of the second period.
The third period turned into the Marian Gaborik show, as the Minnesota Wild star erupted for two unassisted goals in the game's closing minutes to topple Russia 5-3.
In the tournament's second game, Canada handled the host Italian team 7-2 on two goals by Jarome Iginla and one each by Dany Heatley, Shane Doan, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards and Joe Thornton. Leading 1-0 after the first period, the Canadians ran away with the game in the second, scoring five times.