Going into the 2014 Winter Games, Team USA had never beaten Slovakia in an Olympic contest.
Well, the Americans certainly remedied that today with a 7-1 blowout victory over Slovakia that highlighted a balanced attack. Phil Kessel led all U.S. scorers with three points, while six skaters — John Carlson, Ryan Kesler, James van Riemsdyk, Paul Stastny, T.J. Oshie and Patrick Kane — finished with two points each.
It’s almost hard to believe that for a little more than a third of this game, it looked like this one could go either way. Slovakia got off to a decent start and when Team USA started to pick up steam as the first period progressed, Slovak goaltender Jaroslav Halak kept the Americans at bay.
Other than a rocket of a shot by defenseman John Carlson that beat Halak top shelf, the Slovak netminder was perfect through 20 minutes. Early in the second frame, Slovakia took advantage of a non-call on an offside and Tomas Tatar evened the score at one.
That seemed to spark the Americans, who elevated their game from great to overwhelming.
Over the span of 12:04 minutes in the second frame, the U.S. netted four unanswered goals to chase Halak out of the game. However, the mismatch didn’t stem from Slovakia’s goaltender, as evidenced by the fact that Peter Budaj conceded goals to Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown on his first two shots.
The third period was quiet by comparison, but the damage was done. As was the case in their last Olympic blowout victory in the 2010 Semifinals against Finland, the United States won thanks to their balanced attack. Six different players found the back of the net for America today.
They’ll try to carry the momentum from this game into Saturday’s contest against Russia.