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US beats Slovenia, earns spot in men's hockey quarterfinals

USA forward Paul Stastny (26) takes a shot on Slovenia goalie Luka Gracnar during the second period in a men's hockey game at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Sunday, February 16, 2014.

SOCHI, Russia — Phil Kessel scored three goals, two in the opening five minutes, to push the United States past Slovenia, 5-1, Sunday at Shayba Arena.

That left the Americans perfect through the three-game round robin of the Olympic men's hockey tournament. As such, they'll get a bye to the quarterfinals that begin in mid-week.

Kessel's hat trick was the first for a U.S. Olympian since John LeClair in 2002 at Salt Lake City.

“I'm just glad it helped the team win,” Kessel said. “My teammates made some great plays to get me the puck.”

Penguins teammates Paul Martin and Brooks Orpik were split as a defensive pairing, but both took regular shifts against the overmatched Slovenes, who have one NHL player, Anze Kopitar.

Martin said he likes the way the Americans are coming together.

“I think we're getting there,” Martin said. “You're seeing more of our guys play their style of game. There's an adjustment period with the bigger ice, especially for us with the guys we have who like to grind it out on the boards and in the corners. But you saw us dump a lot more pucks in and go get them. That was a good sign.

David Backes and Ryan McDonagh also scored for the U.S.

Ryan Miller, seeing his first action in goal since leading the Americans to silver in Vancouver four years ago, made 17 saves and lost his shutout with 18 seconds left to Slovenia's Marcel Rodman.

A day after becoming the talk of the nation with his one-man shootout wrecking of Russia, T.J. Oshie had one assist.

‘Yeah, it's been pretty crazy,” Oshie said of his media demands and other calls and texts he's received. “And I've been taking a lot of abuse from the guys. Can't repeat most of it.”
 

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