Stastny, USA Top Slovakia; Varly, Russia Hold On
Avalanche center Paul Stastny scored twice in a six-goal second period Thursday to help lead the United States to a 7-1 win over Slovakia in its first game of preliminary play at Shayba Arena.
"It’s always special playing against Slovakia," said Stastny, who has family in Slovakia, to the official IIHF website. "I always know family back home is watching, and my parents always watch no matter what. I’ve never beaten these guys, so it was nice to get it on my third try, on the most important stage."
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The Americans now set their sights on Russia, as they face the host country in a highly anticipated matchup on Saturday at 5:30 a.m. MT (NBCSN, CBC). The winner of that game will likely have the inside track of winning Group A and receiving an automatic bye into the quarterfinals.
Team USA opened the game's scoring at 14:27 of the first period on a rocket slap shot by John Carlson (Capitals) that sent the puck into the top-left corner. Carlson, who also had an assist in the game, had plenty of time and space to fire a perfect shot after Phil Kessel (Maple Leafs) brought the puck into the Slovakia zone and sent a drop pass to Carlson to create separation. Kessel finished the contest with three points as he later added a goal and another assist.
Slovakia tied the game at 1-1 just 24 seconds into the second period, but the Americans quickly responded with two goals in 1:06 with Ryan Kesler (Vancouver) and Stastny tallying at 1:26 and 2:32, respectively.
Stastny added his second goal of the game at 13:30 of the period, which gave the U.S. a 5-1 lead at the time.
David Backes (Blues) and Dustin Brown (Kings) also scored for the United States while goaltender Jonathan Quick (Kings) made 22 saves.
Team USA's six goals in the second period tied a modern-day U.S. men's Olympic record (since 1956) for the most goals in a period. The team also scored six goals against Finland on Feb. 26, 2010 (first period).
RUSSIA HOLDS ON AGAINST SLOVENIA
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After having waited patiently for nearly a week for its men's hockey team to take the ice, Russian fans had plenty to cheer about early in their team's opening game against Slovenia.
That's not to say there weren't some tense moments for the host nation as well.
Russia scored two goals in the first four minutes to take an early lead over Slovenia, who was playing in its first Olympics, but had to hold on in the second period before finally pulling out a 5-2 win at Bolshoy Ice Dome.
Slovenia cut Russia's leads to 2-1 and 3-2 in the second period before Valeri Nichuskin (Stars) and Anton Belov (Oilers) scored in the third to seal the game for the home team.
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was making his first Olympic start in net for Russia and didn't see a lot of shots with Slovenia only managing 14 in the contest. He stopped six of eight shots in the first 40 minutes and stepped up his game in the third period by denying all six pucks thrown his way.
This is Varlamov's second Olympics as the Samara native was a backup at the 2010 Vancouver Games but did not play.
Alexander Ovechkin (Capitals), Evgeni Malkin (Penguins), and Ilya Kovalchuk also scored for Russia. Ziga Jeglic scored both goals for Slovenia.
Russia will face the United States on Saturday at Bolshoy Ice Dome.
DUCHENE SCRATCHED, TO PLAY FRIDAY AGAINST AUSTRIA
Matt Duchene will have to wait one more day before he can make his Olympic debut.
The Avalanche center was a healthy scratch for Canada's game Thursday against Norway after coach Mike Babcock was faced with the tough decision on which two of his talented players had to sit. Teams are allowed to dress 20 skaters and two goalies on their 25-man Olympic rosters.
However, Duchene won't have to wait too much longer to take the ice with his teammates as he's expected to be in the lineup Friday for Canada's second preliminary game against Austria at 10 a.m. MT (USA Network, CBC).
Duchene, who leads the Avs in scoring with 50 points (19 goals and 31 assists) this season, was in good company on Team Canada's healthy scratch list as he was joined by reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban (Montreal) and Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith, who leads the NHL this season in games played (49), shots against (1,500) and saves (1,369).
Won't be in the lineup tonight but will be cheerin the @HC_Men on in our 1st game against Norway. Lookin fwd to playing tomorrow VS Austria!— Matt Duchene (@Matt9Duchene) February 13, 2014
Canada defeated Norway 3-1 at Bolshoy Ice Dome with Shea Weber (Predators), Jamie Benn (Stars) and Drew Doughty (Kings) scoring for the Canadians.
Team Canada had a 2-0 lead after two periods, but Norway scored 22 seconds into the final frame to cut its deficit to one. Unfortunately for the Norwegians, any hopes of tying the game were dashed 1:25 later as Doughty made a nice move through the slot and scored on a shot that beat goalie Lars Haugen over the shoulder.
Avalanche prospect Jonas Holos is an alternate captain for Norway and finished with 24:10 of ice time, second most among all players in the game.
- Each group will be forced to play on back-to-back days once during the preliminary round and on Friday it will be Group B's turn with Austria, Canada, Finland and Norway playing for the second time in less than 36 hours.
- Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog and Team Sweden will take on Switzerland in their second preliminary game at 5:30 a.m. MT (NBCSN, TSN). Landeskog had an assist in Sweden's 4-2 win over the Czech Republic on Wednesday.