SOCHI, Russia — The United States kicked off their quest for the men’s ice hockey gold medal at the Sochi Olympics by sending a clear message to their rivals with a 7-1 rout of Slovakia on Thursday.
The Americans, looking to improve on their silver from the 2010 Olympic Games, scored six goals in the second period to snuff out any hopes Slovakia had of pulling off an upset.
“I don’t think we expected a 7-1 win, but we’ll definitely take it for the first game,” U.S. captain Zach Parise told reporters.
“These guys are a pretty tough defensive team for the most part, and today, we were just able to control the puck well and score on the opportunities we had.”
The Americans opened the scoring late in the first period when John Carlson took a drop pass from Phil Kessel and ripped a slapshot over Slovak goalie Jaroslav Halak’s right shoulder.
Slovakia, who made an unlikely run to the bronze medal game in 2010, drew level at 1-1 with a goal 24 seconds into the second period when Tomas Tatar took advantage of a turnover in the U.S. zone and sent a shot from in close past netminder Jonathan Quick.
However, they were unable to keep pace with the Americans, who responded with a goal a minute later before pulling away to complete the rout ahead of the intermission.
Two goals from Paul Stastny and one each from Ryan Kesler, David Backes, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown accounted for the rest of the U.S. scores.
Flying under the radar with most of the attention on Russia, Sweden and 2010 gold medallists Canada, the United States gave a dazzling offensive display that showed plenty of chemistry for a team that arrived at the Black Sea resort three days ago.
Canada 3, Norway 1
Canada began the defense of its Olympic men’s ice hockey title with a win over a determined Norway after overcoming a sluggish start at the Sochi Games.
Despite having a team brimming with some of the world’s top talent, Canada had to work harder than many expected to hold off one of international ice hockey’s traditionally weaker outfits.
Canada took a 2-0 lead into the final period following a Jamie Benn goal, but Norway cut the deficit through Patrick Thoresen’s powerplay effort in the opening seconds.
Drew Doughty restored Canada’s two-goal cushion 85 seconds later and Norway never threatened again as the contest drew to a close.
Canada fired 38 shots at the Norway net but goaltender Lars Haugen kept his team in the game, turning aside an offense that features four high-powered scoring lines.