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Phil Kessel and Team USA made their extreme effort and unmistakable presence known in Sunday’s game against Slovenia and overall during the preliminary round.
In 2002, John LeClair led the USA in a win with a hat trick — 12 years later, Kessel follows in LeClair’s footsteps with three goals for Team USA, according to MSN Fox Sports.
USA clinched an automatic spot in the quarterfinals.
Just 64 seconds into the game, Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs found his way in the midst of Slovenia’s defensemen and slid the puck right between Gracnar’s pads. Even more impressive, just 4:33 into the game, he scored another goal, working off of Palveski’s airlifted pass. Kessel’s quick scoring gave Team USA an early lead and a nice cushion to fall back on.
Slovenia did put the pressure on, though. There were quite a few moments where they gave USA a run for their money, had a power play opportunity and made their way down the ice for some great scoring opportunities. Ultimately, it failed.
At 11:05 in the second period, Kessel completed his hat trick. His third and final goal was shot into the left side of the net off of Pavelski’s rebound shot, making it 3-0.
New York Ranger Ryan McDonagh got in the game and gave USA their fourth goal by wiring a shot from the right circle into the top right corner. The opportunity arose and McDonagh made sure he didn’t miss it.
Solidifying what was already known, Ryan Callahan shot a backhanded pass at Backes’ feet, giving him the opportunity to hit the puck in the net, mid air. After review, it was clear Backes scored the fifth USA goal.
Team USA is a force to be reckoned with, considering they have eight out of nine possible points, and are first place in Group A, according to NY Daily News.
Ryan Miller was a brief 17.6 seconds away from a shutout, but Marcel Rodman managed to get a shot by him in the very end. In his Olympic debut, Miller made a total of 17 saves.
The quarterfinals will begin Wednesday.