U.S. hockey team wins first game in Olympics, 7-1 against Slovakia

SOCHI, Russia -- Bring on the Russians.

That was the message Team USA sent loud and clear -- no translation needed -- with a six-goal second period in a 7-1 dismantling of Slovakia on Thursday afternoon at Shayba Arena.

Next door at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, Russia had a little bit more trouble with Slovenia but ultimately prevailed, 5-2, setting up a titanic clash on Saturday that will likely determine which team emerges from Group A to the quarterfinals.

The Americans, who have never medaled in the Olympics outside of North America, made it seem like they've been playing on the wider international ice surface their entire lives.

After Slovakia tied the score at 1-1 with a Tomas Tatar goal 24 seconds into the second period -- replays showed that Slovakia was likely offsides -- the United States responded with six goals in 14 minutes.

Ryan Kesler, Paul Stastny (two), David Backes, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown did the damage, giving goalie Jonathan Quick more breathing room than any netminder could ask for.

Kessel led the Americans with one goal and two assists.

At the buzzer, chants of "U-S-A!" rang out from the crowd of 4,119. The players aren't the only ones ready for Russia.

J. Brady McCollough: bmccollough@post-gazette.com and Twitter @BradyMcCollough.

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