Winter Olympics 2014 Men's Hockey: USA destroys Slovakia 7-1 in opening game

Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

The United States kicked off its quest for a gold medal with a convincing win Thursday against an overmatched opponent

It was supposed to be the "close" game in its time slot on day 2 of the men's hockey tournament in Sochi. Instead, while Russia struggled to dispose of the pesky Slovenians, the United States sent a serious message to its competitors and critics: We don't lack scoring.

It all started 14:27 in, when Phil Kessel dropped the puck to John Carlson on the rush, who one-timed a slap-shot top corner - past goalkeeper Jaroslav Halak - to make it 1-0. The Americans scored again from virtually the same spot early in the second period courtesy of Ryan Kesler, but not before Slovakia tied it on a controversial tally. On the opening shift of the second period, a Ryan Suter misplay led to Tomas Tatar wiring a wrist shot past Jonathan Quick and off the cross-bar and in. The goal never should have counted, though, as Marian Hossa was blatantly offside on the zone-entry.

The fourth line of Max Pacioretty - Paul Stastny - T.J. Oshie played a strong game, often pinning Slovakia in its zone and contributing two goals, including USA's third, which was the result of a one-timer from Pacioretty that was saved by Halak, only to see the rebound cashed in by Stastny.

David Backes, Phil Kessel, and Dustin Brown also scored for the US, while Stastny added a second. Quick made 22 saves in the win, while Halak was pulled after allowing 5 goals on 20 shots. Peter Budaj didn't fare much better in relief, ceding 2 goals on 6 shots.

Incredibly, the Slovakian first defense pairing of Zdeno Chara and Andrej Sekera, finished even on the night, on the ice for the team's lone goal for and only one goal against. Somehow, the duo both played under 20 minutes, with Chara clocking in at 18:01. The ice time leader for either team was Suter, who played 19:46.

Ultimately, a victory for the United States wasn't a surprise. But the manner in which they exposed the Slovakian lack of depth bodes well for them going into a Saturday matchup against top-heavy Russia. A 7-2 win for the US combined with only a 5-2 victory for Russia puts the former on top of the group on goal differential heading into game two.

If you missed it, Canadians can watch the game in its entirety here. Highlights can be found here.

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