The United States scored six unanswered goals during a second-period onslaught, finishing with a decisive 7-1 victory over Slovakia in their opening game of the preliminary round of men's hockey action at the 2014 Winter Olympics Thursday in Sochi, Russia.
Rangers captain Ryan Callahan and defenseman Ryan McDonagh both helped the United States to victory, though neither recorded a point. Blueshirts center Derek Stepan was a healthy scratch along with goaltender Jimmy Howard and defenseman Justin Faulk.
Callahan was in Team USA's starting lineup, playing right wing alongside David Backes and Zach Parise, a line which featured three captains — besides Callahan, Parise wears the C for the United States and Backes is the captain of the St. Louis Blues. That line remained intact the entire game, and Callahan — who also killed penalties for Team USA--finished the match with one shot on goal in 15:43 worth of ice time. Backes did score a goal, but Callahan was not on the ice at that moment as it came just seven seconds after Slovakia had killed off a U.S. power play at 8:16 of the second period. That Backes goal — which put Team USA ahead 4-1 — was part of the six-goal outburst which featured a pair by Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche.
McDonagh spent most of the game paired on defense with New York-native Kevin Shattenkirk, logging a solid 18:38 — which was fourth-highest on the team. He recorded one shot on goal and finished with a +1 plus/minus rating, though he made his biggest mark in the defensive zone, where his usual solid effort was punctuated by a pair of memorable plays in his own end.
During a second-period scramble by the U.S. crease McDonagh deftly moved into the spot that was vacated by goaltender Jonathan Quick and denied a wide-open scoring chance for the Slovaks. Though not credited with a "save" McDonagh's alert play not only saved a goal against, it set Team USA off the other way in transition where Backes eventually scored.
In third period, despite holding a six-goal lead, McDonagh dove on his stomach to disrupt a left wing attempt by the Slovaks, and then while still on his belly he poke-checked the puck off his opponent's stick and sent it harmlessly into the corner.
Slovakia tied the United States, 1-1, with a controversial goal early in the second period--the play appeared offsides--but Team USA responded with a pair of goals 66 seconds apart by Ryan Kesler and Stastny and then ran away with the game thereafter.
The United States — which was led by Phil Kessel's three-point game (1-2-3) — will next face Russia on Saturday. Russia won its first game of the 2014 Games Thursday in front of a partisan crowd, beating Slovenia 5-2.