Sochi, Russia (SportsNetwork.com) - Heroic efforts from T.J. Oshie and
Jonathan Quick were not required for the United States on Sunday against
Slovenia. Phil Kessel and Ryan Miller made sure of that.
Kessel scored twice in the first 4:33 of the contest en route to a natural hat
trick and Miller made 17 saves in place of a resting Quick for the Americans
in a 5-1 victory that clinched a bye into the quarterfinals of the Olympic
Ryan McDonagh and David Backes also scored for the United States, which
avoided a letdown after its dramatic shootout win against Russia on Saturday.
Oshie scored four times in the shootout and Quick came up with enough stops
during the extra phase to help the Americans gain the valuable extra point,
which enabled the U.S. to enter Sunday's contest needing only a win to earn an
extra day off heading into the second week of the tournament.
The Americans finished with three wins and eight points to claim first place
in Group A, bypassing the qualification playoff on Tuesday. The U.S. will next
play again on Wednesday.
Joe Pavelski assisted on all three goals by Kessel, who became the first
American with a hat trick in Olympic play since John LeClair in 2002 against
Marcel Rodman scored with 17.6 seconds remaining to avoid the shutout for
Slovenia, which was coming off its first-ever Olympic win on Saturday against
Slovakia. Luca Gracnar stopped 23 shots in defeat.
Kessel gave the United States a 1-0 lead just 64 seconds into the contest. He
took a pass from Pavelski at the Slovenia blue line and made a neat move
through the right circle past defenseman Mitja Robar before slipping a shot
The same duo increased the American lead at the 4:33 mark. Pavelski chased the
puck down in the Slovenia zone and made a pass from the right side of the cage
toward the top of the crease for an onrushing Kessel, who knocked the puck out
of midair and into the net.
Slovenia carried play for most of the final 10 minutes of the opening period
and the early portion of the second, but Miller was up to the task and helped
the Americans maintain their lead until Kessel and Pavelski struck again.
Pavelski rifled a shot on net from the right circle with James van Riemsdyk
providing a perfect screen. The rebound kicked directly to the left side of
the crease and Kessel was there to knock it home for the natural hat trick.
Just 1:12 later, McDonagh scored on a one-timer from the right circle to make
Backes added a goal at 3:26 of the third before Rodman spoiled what would have
been Miller's second career Olympic shutout.
The Sports Network