United States 5, Slovenia 1
The matchup Kings fans were salivating over turned out to be a bit of a dud. Not helping: we didn't see Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar played around half a game, and Dustin Brown stayed out of trouble. So the Kings were largely a non-factor. Regardless, the United States cruised, clinching a top-three seed and a bye to the quarterfinals while Slovenia wrapped up the eighth seed.
Who was a factor? Phil Kessel. Kessel became the second player to notch a natural hat trick at these Olympics, with Jeff Carter being the first. Kessel also did it in almost the same fashion as Carter, getting his three goals from a cumulative distance of about five feet from the net. The first goal was a beaut, as Kessel deked Mitja Robar at the blue line and beat Slovenian backup Luka Gracnar just 1:04 in. (Don't envy Gracnar, who was giving the excellent Robert Kristan a night off in goal.) Much like they did against Russia, Slovenia allowed a second goal in the first five minutes, with Kessel batting a pass from Joe Pavelski out of midair on the doorstep. Slovenia rebounded and played well over the remainder of the period, but the damage was done.
Kessel finished his hat trick midway through the second, converting a rebound into a wide-open net. The Americans followed that up immediately with another one, as Blake Wheeler carried the puck for a while before firing a perfect cross-ice pass to Ryan McDonagh, who wristed one past Gracnar. The Slovenians had to be a bit disheartened, as they certainly hadn't played badly enough to be down 4-0. They weren't able to throw much at Ryan Miller, though, and Miller's only difficult save was the one he made with the butt end of his stick.
Dustin Brown got on the scoresheet with a secondary assist in the third, as the Annoying Line (TM) picked up a goal off the skate and stick of David Backes. Anze Kopitar wasn't around to generate any counter-offense; in fact, he wasn't even on the bench in the final period, as he was ill. It was too bad that American hockey fans didn't get to see the kind of show that Kopitar put on against Slovakia, but he'll be back. Slovenia was able to break Miller's shutout even without Kopitar, as Marcel Rodman scored their lone goal with 17 seconds left. Of course, Slovenia lost their shutout against Slovakia with 17 seconds left, so a bit of poetic justice there.
This opening round has still been a huge success for Slovenia, who will enter the qualification round in the eighth seed despite being a popular pick to finish last. They'll play Austria as the higher seed, with a chance to move on to the quarterfinals and face the number one seed. Dream big.
Russia 1, Slovakia 0 (Shootout)
Keeping this one short, for obvious reasons. Russia had a number of chances to win this game in regulation and clinch a bye into the quarterfinals. All they had to do was beat unheralded Jan Laco once! Instead, they waited until the shootout to win, and have to wait for the Canada-Finland result to determine where they fall to #4 or #5. However, taking that fourth seed would require an enormous rout; more likely, they'll be playing on Tuesday in the qualifying round against Norway.
Slava Voynov didn't make any headlines, after contributing a big physical hit against Dustin Brown and a bigger verbal one against Jonathan Quick yesterday. His teammates hit multiple posts, including a shot which fooled the players and the crowd by going off both the crossbar and post before bouncing out. But it didn't go, and Laco was able to do what Jaroslav Halak and Peter Budaj hadn't in earning his team a point. Russia made the shootout look easy though, as Semyon Varlamov stopped two attempts while Alexander Radulov and Ilya Kovalchuk both scored.
Canada vs. Finland
Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, and Canada are under way against Finland. If it goes to overtime, the US earns the #2 seed; if it ends in regulation; the US earns the #3. And if it's a huge (7+ goal) rout, Russia gets a bye. We'll update this with the result later on. GKG!
[UPDATE: Drew Doughty is a Canadian hero.]