Coming into this tournament, there were a lot of questions surrounding the make up of Team USA's roster, and many wondered where they would be able to generate a steady flow of offense from. However, USA came out storming this morning as they defeated Slovakia by a score of 7-1, and they will now shift their focus to the Russian's who they'll match up against on Saturday morning. USA started off a little slow to begin the game, as Slovakia looked to be sitting back, and were playing a form of a trap.
Finally, at the 14:27 mark of the first period, USA jumped out to their first lead of the game as John Carlson blasted a shot over the shoulder of Jaroslav Halak. Phil Kessel made a perfect play to create space for a 3-on-1, and gave Carlson a great drop pass that he was able to put all of his weight behind. While the Americans appeared to be confident heading into the second period, Tomas Tatar quickly altered that feeling. Just 24 seconds into the second period, Tatar broke in down the wing and snapped a shot right under the crossbar to tie the game up at 1-1.
As deflating as that tying goal was, USA didn't hang their heads and quickly jumped back with a counterattack of their own. A little over a minute after Tatar tied up the game, Patrick Kane set up Ryan Kesler in the high slot, and he ripped it past Halak. From that point on, USA kicked it into a higher gear, and followed it up with five consecutive goals. Paul Stastny, David Backes, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown were the recipients of the five consecutive goals, and they held onto a commanding 7-1 heading into the third period.
The third period wound up being a more defensive minded game as USA shutdown the Slovak's for the final 20 minutes, and picked up a massive win to prepare for the Russian's in 48 hours. Even though Ryan Callahan nor Ryan McDonagh picked up any points in the game, they were both solid in their roles. Also, two of McDonagh's big plays in the defensive end led directly to goals at the other end, and maybe this will finally be his coming out party for the rest of the NHL. We as Ranger fans know just how much of an important player he is, but now with him getting all of this international exposure, I'd expect the hype factor surrounding him to increase by a ton.
Derek Stepan was a healthy scratch for today's game, and will likely remain that for next game against the Russian's. Stepan was originally selected to remain as an extra forward in the event that someone got hurt, and they felt he was the best available player to step in there and make an immediate impact. As mentioned above, USA will have tomorrow off before the take on the hometown Russian's on Saturday morning.