When Tomas Tatar netted a goal to tie the game 1-1 between Slovakia and Team USA, the Red Wings forward pointed towards the sky, no doubt paying tribute to his late father in his Olympic debut.
It was a memorable goal for more than one reason, but it didn’t come without controversy. Chicago’s Marian Hossa corralled the puck at the blue line after a turnover by Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter, and waited for Tatar to scramble back into the neutral zone to avoid an offsides call. But Hossa crossed over the blue line before his younger teammate could clear Team USA’s zone, a violation that wasn’t called and ultimately led to the 23-year-old’s first Olympic goal just 24 seconds into the second period.
But the Slovakians had little time to celebrate, as Tatar’s goal seemed to spark a scoring frenzy among the Americans. Team USA went on a ruthless scoring spree, notching six goals in nearly 14 minutes of play during the second period to take a commanding 7-1 lead that would stand as the game’s final score.
“It was a little bit of a slow start, a little feeling-out period but found our game in the second and had a great stretch where we buried a few pucks and then the third’s a six-goal difference,” Blues forward David Backes told NBC Sports Net’s Pierre McGuire. “I think we would’ve like to have better happens but that happens sometimes.”
Washington defenseman John Carlson put the USA on the scoreboard first in the opening period, scoring on his first shot of his Olympic debut. After Tatar tied the game early in the second, forwards Ryan Kesler and Paul Stastny scored two minutes apart to give the Americans a 3-1 lead.
Team USA controlled the rest of the second period, as Backes found the back of the net, followed by Stastny’s second goal of the game. Trailing 5-1, Slovakia pulled Jaroslav Halak from the goal in favor of Canadiens goaltender Peter Budaj.
The change did little to stifle the Americans, though. Forwards Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown added two more goals before the second intermission to give the USA a six-goal advantage.
“Guys were laid back and ready to go out there and do some great work and put the team first and I think we did a lot of that today,” Backes said.
Kesler, a Livonia, Michigan native, shined in his second Olympic appearance, scoring the game-winning goal and earning an assist in Team USA’s first preliminary tournament game.
Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard didn’t dress for the USA’s first group matchup against Slovakia, and forward Tomas Jurco recorded two shots in just over 13 minutes of ice time.
Both teams will return to the ice Saturday morning, as Slovakia will face Slovenia at 3 a.m. on MSNBC and the U.S. will take on Russia at 7:30 a.m. on NBC Sports Net. Russia defeated Slovenia 5-2 Thursday morning and Backes knows Saturday’s matchup against the host country will be a difficult one.
“They’re in home town, they’ve been getting a lot of press and a lot of attention and you expect them to have firing in their own cylinders and they got a lot of fire power so we have a great test ahead of us we have two days to prepare for it,” Backes said.
Follow Andrea Nelson on Twitter @Nelson_Andrea