USA wins in laugher

GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer Published:

SOCHI, Russia (AP) -- Paul Stastny scored twice during a six-goal barrage in the second period, and the United States got off to a spectacular start in the Olympic men's hockey tournament with a 7-1 victory over Slovakia on Thursday.

Ryan Kesler, David Backes, Phil Kessel and Dustin Brown also scored as the Americans battered Slovakia for six consecutive goals in a 13:51 span, turning what was expected to be a tough matchup into a laugher.

Jonathan Quick made 22 saves in his Olympic debut for the U.S., which hopes to improve on its silver-medal finish in Vancouver despite a roster that isn't thought to have the offensive power of Canada, Russia or Sweden.

In their only warmup for Saturday's showdown with Russia, the Americans didn't need scoring stars to leave Slovakia's two goalies battered.

Jaroslav Halak stopped 20 shots before getting pulled when Stastny tipped home Kevin Shattenkirk's pass to put the Americans up 5-1. Peter Budaj replaced Halak, but Kessel and Brown scored in the next 1:47.

Tomas Tatar scored for Slovakia, which traveled to Sochi without high-scoring Marian Gaborik and veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky due to injury. But nobody anticipated such a defensive collapse by a roster studded with NHL regulars, including Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Zdeno Chara.

Slovakia's last two Olympic games have been humiliations: The Slovaks blew a third-period lead and lost to Finland in the bronze medal game in Vancouver, depriving them of their nation's first Olympic hockey medals.

John Carlson opened the scoring for the U.S. in the first period, and Tatar tied it with a nasty wrist shot in the opening minute of the second. Kesler put the Americans back ahead 1:02 later with a one-timer through Brown's screen, and Stastny scored 1:06 later on a fat rebound of Max Pacioretty's shot.

The U.S. didn't let up until Brown redirected Carlson's pass to make it 7-1, and the once-boisterous Slovak crowd retreated into silence at Shayba Arena.

Kessel had a goal and two assists, while Patrick Kane, T.J. Oshie and James van Riemsdyk added two assists apiece.

rst made their goaltending situation seem secondary for a day, but Quick still handled the Slovaks' chances well. U.S. coach Dan Bylsma waited until Wednesday to choose Quick for the first start in goal over Ryan Miller, who backstopped the Americans to silver medals in Vancouver while winning the tournament MVP award.

Quick, who didn't get in a game in Vancouver, emerged as one of the world's top goalies while leading the Los Angeles Kings to a Stanley Cup championship in 2012, but he missed seven weeks of the Kings' current season with a groin injury.

FIGURE SKATING: Evgeni Plushenko, the first figure skater in the modern era to win medals in four Olympics, retired from competitive figure skating shortly after withdrawing from the men's competition for medical reasons. The Russian said he injured himself during practice on Wednesday, then fell on a triple axel during warmups Thursday. The 31-year-old Plushenko is the only modern-era figure skater to win medals in four different Olympics. He helped Russia win the team gold over the weekend. He also won figure skating gold in 2006 and silver in 2002 and 2010. Plushenko said he said it felt "like a knife in my back" when he fell on a triple axel during Thursday's warmups. "I think it's God saying, 'Evgeni, enough, enough with skating,'" said Plushenko. In the short program, Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan led with a score of 101.45 The competition concludes Friday with the short program.

SLOPESTYLE SKIING: For only the third time in Winter Games history, a U.S. team swept the podium. Christensen led the way with a dominating performance that featured four near-perfect runs over the rails and jumps at the Rosa Khutor Extreme Park. Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper captured the silver and bronze, as the U.S. skiers matched the country's previous sweeps in men's figure skating in 1956 and men's halfpipe snowboarding in 2002. "I am stoked to be up here with my friends," Christensen said. "America, we did it."

CROSS-COUNTRY: Kowalczyk led virtually all the way, finishing in 28 minutes, 17.8 seconds and beating silver medalist Charlotte Kalla of Sweden by 18.4 seconds. Therese Johaug of Norway took bronze, 28.3 seconds behind.

SHORT TRACK: Li's win in the 500 keeps the Olympic title with China. Injured teammate Wang Meng couldn't defend the title she has won at every Winter Games since 2002. Arianna Fontana of Italy took the silver and Park Seung-hi of South Korea earned the bronze. Elise Christie of Britain caused the first crash of the wild final and was disqualified.

SPEEDSKATING: In the women's 1000-meter race, Zhang Hong pulled off a stunning victory to give China its first gold ever in Olympic speedskating. Her time of 1 minute, 14.02 seconds, broke the track record and just missed the Olympic mark set by Chris Witty at the 2002 Games. Ireen Wust took the silver and Margo Boer the bronze, giving the Dutch a dozen speedskating medals.

BIATHLON: Martin Fourcade of France earned his second gold of the Sochi Games with a victory in the men's 20-kilometer individual race. Fourcade, who won the 12.5K pursuit on Monday, finished 12.2 seconds ahead of silver medalist Erik Lesser of Germany. Yevgeny Garanichev of Russia won the bronze.

LUGE: Germany scored a golden sweep of all four luge events by winning the inaugural team relay. Felix Loch, Natalie Geisenberger and the doubles team of Tobias Wendl and Tobias Arlt finished their runs in 2 minutes, 45.649 seconds, beating Russia for the title by 1.030 seconds. Latvia won the bronze.

CURLING: Gold medal favorites Canada, Sweden and Britain posted wins in the men's curling tournament, keeping the pressure on undefeated China, which had a bye Thursday. In the women's competition, Canada swept away its fifth straight opponent, while Sweden knocked Switzerland from the ranks of the undefeated. Britain revived its chances of making the semifinals with a win over China.

SKELETON: Lizzy Yarnold of Britain and Noelle Pinkus-Pace grabbed the top two spots midway through the women's skeleton competition. The final two runs for the gold are Friday.

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