SOCHI, Russia – For 10 minutes in its Olympic opener Thursday afternoon at Shayba Arena, the U.S. men’s hockey team looked as if it hadn’t been together for more than a few days – which, of course, it hadn’t. And after Slovakia scored a goal early in the second to tie the game at a goal apiece, it appeared the Americans might have to sweat a bit.
Those notions, though, evaporated quickly. Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson scored the first U.S. goal of the tournament, but it was a six-goal outburst in the second that put away Slovakia in what ended up as a 7-1 laugher.
Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche scored twice in the second period, when the Americans drove Slovakian goaltender Jaroslav Halak from the game. Halak, the former Canadiens goalie who once anchored the Canadiens’ playoff comeback against the Capitals, made just 20 saves on 25 shots.
Halak’s backup, Peter Budaj, allowed goals on the first two shots he faced – the first to Phil Kessel, the next 57 seconds later to Dustin Brown to make it 7-1.
Carlson’s goal came with just 5:33 remaining in the first period, after some ragged play for the Americans, who have practiced together for only a few days. Carlson, playing in his first Olympics, took a nice drop pass from Kessel and blasted a slap shot from the right circle over Halak’s right shoulder.
Tomas Tatar then tied things up just 24 seconds into the second by beating U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick, who started over Ryan Miller, the MVP of the 2010 Olympic tournament, in which the Americans lost the gold-medal match to Canada in overtime.
But Ryan Kesler and Stasny scored goals before the second period was three minutes old, and the rout was on. Quick went on to save 22 of 23 shots against him.
The U.S.’s next game is Saturday against Russia, one of the marquee events of the Sochi Games.