The USA men's hockey team started an uphill battle for the Olympic gold medal on Feb. 13. The rest of the Olympics likely won't be as easy for U.S. hockey as the second period against Slovakia was. However, the Americans will take any break they can get, including the ones that gave them a 7-1 win in their Olympic opener.
It took only 14 minutes in the second period for the U.S. to bury Slovakia. The period actually started with Slovakia evening the score at 1-1, 24 seconds in. Yet just over a minute later, the USA took the lead for good when Ryan Kesler opened the floodgates.
Paul Stastney kept the momentum going with a tally just 66 seconds later, then Slovakia settled down for almost six straight minutes. But the U.S. upped its lead to 4-1 on a David Backes goal, before Stastney racked up his second goal five minutes later. By the time Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown scored two more goals 57 seconds apart, the game became nothing but a formality.
The U.S. hockey team just had to avoid looking ahead to facing the host Russians on Feb. 15. For at least one big barrage, the Americans managed to do just that. Nevertheless, they can't count on a six-goal explosion to knock off Russia, although it certainly would help -- and could be necessary if the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin are on their game.
Ovechkin, Malkin and the Russians stayed on their game in their own opener, when they handled Slovenia by a mere 5-2. Ovechkin and Malin actually opened the scoring in the first period, which is the first of many positive signs the host country is looking for.
34 years ago, U.S. hockey had a signature Olympic triumph over the Russians on their home ice. Now in 2014, the Russians want to triumph over the U.S. and the world on their own home ice. Much has changed in three decades, with professional athletes skating in the Olympics and with the Russians no longer serving as hockey's superpower.
Regardless, the old USA-Russia memories can be evoked on Feb. 15. Now that they have each brushed aside their opening Olympics tests first, they have a little less to worry about -- although the Americans hope that they gave the Russians something to fear with their second period.