U.S., other men's hockey favorites ease into Olympics

Thursday, February 13, 2014 | 8:19 p.m. CST
Norway goaltender Lars Haugen stretches to block a shot by Canada forward Corey Perry in the third period Thursday. Canada went on to win 3-1.

SOCHI, Russia — Four of the favorites in Olympic men's hockey started the Sochi Games with wins.

The host Russians rolled early as Alex Ovechkin had a goal and an assist in a breathtaking start of a 5-2 victory against Slovenia on Thursday.

The defending gold medal-winning Canadians shook off a slow start with a dominant second period of a 3-1 win over Norway.

Most impressively, the U.S. scored six times in the second period and routed Slovakia 7-1.

Finland beat Austria 8-4, but it came at a cost.

The Finns played the final two periods without captain Teemu Selanne because of an upper-body injury. They expect the 43-year-old forward to be healthy enough to play Norway on Friday, but he may rest to be ready to face the Canadians on Sunday in the final game of the tournament's round-robin preliminary round.

Ovechkin, perhaps the biggest star of the Olympics, scored 1:17 after the puck dropped with a wrist shot that made the crowd roar. The superstar made the flag-waving fans gasp in awe 2:37 later with a drop pass to set up Evgeni Malkin's goal that gave Russia a 2-0 lead. The Russians relaxed, letting Slovenia pull within a goal twice in its first Olympic hockey game before taking control with two goals in the third.

Canada's Shea Weber and Jamie Benn scored in the second after a scoreless first period and Carey Price finished with 19 saves in his Olympic debut.

The Americans were expected to face the stiffest test, but they were simply sensational against Slovakia. Paul Stastny scored twice to help the U.S. score six consecutive goals in a 13:51 span.

Jarkko Immonen and Mikael Granlund scored two goals apiece for Finland, the only nation with three medals since the NHL began letting its players participate in the Olympics 16 years ago.

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