SOCHI, RUSSIA (CNN, Feb. 16th, 2014)- Phil Kessel scored two first-period goals en route to a hat trick for the USA men’s 2014 Winter Olympics hockey team on Sunday, as the Americans raced out to an early lead and dominated Slovenia 5-1.
This was a Group A game as part of the preliminary round at Bolshoy Ice Dome in Sochi, Russia, but nevertheless an important final matchup for both clubs ahead of the play-off qualifications that begin Tuesday. With this triumph, the U.S. gets a bye to the play-off quarterfinals.
After a tense 3-2 shootout victory over Russia on Saturday, this win was of the far less stressful variety for coach Dan Bylsma’s stacked U.S. team, which improved to 3-0 in these Winter Games.
The scoring barrage started not long after the puck dropped.
A strange carom off the corner of the end boards saw the puck go right to the San Jose Sharks’ Joe Pavelski, who snapped a two-line pass to Kessel. From there, the Toronto Maple Leafs forward made a nifty deke to beat the Slovenian defense and rifled a wrist shot past goaltender Luka Gracnar to put the USA on the board just 1:04 into the game.