Phil Kessel lights up Slovenia with hat trick
Team USA remains undefeated
Phil Kessel’s star continues to shine.
One of the hottest scorers in the NHL prior to the Olympic break, Kessel has been Team USA’s most dynamic player through the preliminary round scoring four goals and seven points in three games to help his team remain undefeated.
Kessel scored three goals and was the first star of the game as the United States registered an easy 5-1 win over Slovenia Sunday.
The Toronto Maple Leafs right-winger shot Team USA into a quick 2-0 lead scoring on his team’s first shot of the game and then batting a puck out of mid-air a few minutes later.
Kessel completed his hat trick at 11:05 of the second period when he popped a rebound past Slovenian goaltender Luka Gracnar.
“I’m just trying to help my team win; do whatever I can,” Kessel said.
He added it is a bonus to be playing on a line with James van Riemsdyk, his linemate in Toronto. Joe Pavelski of the San Jose Sharks in the line’s centre.
“It helps a lot that I play with JVR all year,” Kessel said. “I played with Pav at the last Olympics and we’re just trying to keep going.”
Slovenia, coming off a thrilling 3-1 victory over Slovakia Saturday, had nothing left in the tank to face the United States. It was as though its win over Slovakia was its Stanley Cup victory and the team checked out mentally. Likewise, the Americans celebrated a monumental shootout win over the host Russians knowing they could go at half speed and not lose on this day.
A goal in the final minute by Slovenia was inconsequential other than the fact it affected Team USA’s goal differential. The Americans complete the round robin with a 3-0 record having outscored their opponents 15-4.
The game had all the intensity of two last-place teams in a beer league hooking up late in the season.
The Slovenians had a couple of decent scoring chances, but that said, they were never really in the game. The United States took the lead and then coasted to the victory.
Little Joe chips in
With 13 goals since Jan. 2, Pavelski has been one of the hottest scorers in the NHL in 2014. He has continued to hold a hot hand in the Olympics scoring a goal and adding three assists through three games.
It’s Miller time
Ryan Miller was the hero of the 2010 Olympic Games for Team USA, leading his team to the gold medal game and earning most valuable player honors. He had a 5-1 record in Vancouver, but has been designated as the team’s backup goalie in this year’s tournament, giving way to Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings.
Miller made his first start against Slovenia. Forward Derek Stepan of the New York Rangers also saw his first action replacing Max Pacioretty in the lineup.
Down and out
Slovenia’s best player, Anze Kopitar, was late joining his team for the second period and then skipped the third period all together. No reason was given for his absence.