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Team USA throttles Slovakia to open Olympics

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Team USA's men's hockey team opened the preliminary round of the Olympics by dismantling Slovakia, 7-1 Thursday in Sochi, Russia.

Minnesota Wild stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were kept off the scoresheet, but former Gopher Phil Kessel and Minnesota native David Backes each scored for the U.S.

The Americans jumped out to a 1-0 lead on a goal by Washington Capitals forward John Carlson, but that's all the U.S. would get in the first period. The Slavs struck back and tied the game at one with a goal by Red Wings youngster Tomas Tatar early in the second period.

That's all Slovakia would get.

Team USA battened down the hatches on the defensive end and erupted for six goals in the second period, tying an Olympic record. Paul Statsny scored twice and Ryan Kessler, Dustin Brown, Kessel and Backes added goals.

Statsny paved the way with two goals, but the more interesting part of his day is that he dominated the team his father Peter Statsny played for during his Olympic career.

Slovakia is led by NHLers Zdeno Chara, Marian Hossa, Michal Handzus and Tomas Kopecky. Former Wild star Marian Gaborik would have been on the team but he's out with an injury, according to the Pioneer Press.

The U.S. will get a break on Friday before a much-anticipated matchup with the Russians on Saturday. That game starts at 6:30 a.m. Central Time. Following that, the U.S. closes out the preliminary portion of the tournament Saturday against Slovenia.

Check out this excellent photo gallery provided by USA Hockey.

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