ST LOUIS – The United States gained goals from six different players in their dominating win over Slovakia 7-1 in the opening game of their preliminary round.
Early-on, David Backes playing physical on the backcheck and T.J. Oshie drew a penalty leading to the game’s first power play. Jaroslav Halak was solid in keeping Slovakia in the game early, but it wasn’t to last.
The United States opened the scoring when Phil Kessell dropped a pass back to a charging John Carlson. Halak had no chance on the blast from Carlson, a drive which sailed over the Czech goaltender’s right shoulder. The period ended with a 1-0 United States lead.
In the second period, after an early Slovakian goal by Tomas Tatar which should have been negated by a blown offside play, the American fireworks began.
Ryan Kesler, Paul Stastny and David Backes quickly extended the American lead to 4-1. Stastny added a second goal and that scoring play which led to a Slovakian change in goal. A peppered and unprotected Jaroslav Halak had faced 25 shots in the first 33:30 of play and was replaced by Peter Budaj.
The new Slovak netminder did not have to wait long before seeing action. 50 seconds after touching the crease and facing his first shot on goal, Phil Kessell made it 6-1. Dustin Brown finished out the scoring for the period and the game to make it 7-1 a little less than a minute later.
For the St. Louis Blues representatives in the game, center David Backes finished with 1 goal, the fourth US goal, on two shots and a +1 rating. He won 7 of 16 face-offs, played 16:19 of the game on 21 shifts averaging 0:46 seconds per shift. Right wing T.J. Oshie finished with 2 assists on both Stastny goals, had zero shots and a +2 rating. He played 10:50 of game time on 14 shifts averaging 0:46 seconds per shift.
On defense, Kevin Shattenkirk had an assist on Stastny’s second goal, two shots, both in the second period, and a +1 rating. He played 19:14 of game time on 22 shifts averaging 0:52 seconds per shift.
In a losing effort, Slovakian goaltender Jaroslav Halak started and played 33:30 minutes allowing 5 goals on 25 shots finishing with a 0.800 save percentage. He played well in the early-going, but could not withstand the American pressure on his own.
The United States faces Russia in the second game on Saturday, February 15th at 7:30 AM ET on CBC, NBCSN before finishing with their final game of the preliminary round against Slovenia on Sunday, February 16th at 7:30 AM ET on NBCSN.
Slovakia faces newcomer Slovenia in the next game on Saturday, February 15th at 3:00 AM ET on SNET, NBCSN before finishing with their final game of the preliminary round against Russia on Sunday, February 16th at 7:30 AM ET on USA. Slovakia will not only need wins in these two games, but victories by large margins to be in contention for advancement to the second round of the tournament.
As for the rest of the Blues, I will be providing previews and updates throughout the tournament. Canada will be represented by defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester. Russia will be represented by right wing Vladimir Tarasenko. Sweden will be represented by left wing Alexander Steen and center Patrik Berglund. Although named to the Czech Republic team, center Vladimir Sobotka is out with a knee injury.
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