Russia, Canada win Sochi hockey openers
Defending champions Canada and host Russia swept aside battling opponents while the USA steamrolled Slovakia on the second day of the men's ice hockey tournament at the Sochi Olympics Thursday.
Shea Weber and Jamie Benn scored second period goals as Canada got its gold medal defence off to a solid start in the preliminary round by edging Norway 3-1 in front of a crowd of 10,261 at the Bolshoi Ice Dome.
Russian star Alex Ovechkin scored with his first shot of the Games as the host nation survived a scare to beat Slovenia 5-2, and the United States -- who won the silver four years ago in Vancouver -- scored six goals in the second period as they thumped hapless Slovakia 7-1.
After a slow start in the first period, the defending Olympic champion Canadians got rolling in the second when Weber scored on a blast from the point with just over six minutes gone.
"In the first period we were testing the waters a bit," said star forward Sidney Crosby.
"In the second and third period we found our game and wore them down. We know we have to get better as things go on."
Benn made it 2-0 on a shot from the left side nine minutes later for Canada, who are seeking to win their first Olympic gold outside of North America in 62 years, since 1952 in Oslo.
For a while Thursday it looked like Canada was still suffering from jet lag after the long flight from North America as they failed to generate many scoring chances and only outshot Norway 9-8 in the first period.
Canada's biggest question mark coming into the tournament was their goaltending and starter Carey Price didn't do much to lessen those concerns.
A Price mistake led to the Norway goal early in the third period. Price tried to play the puck behind his net but lost it to Mathis Olimb who skated out front and took a shot that was deflected in by Patrick Thoresen.
"We have to be a little satisfied even though it hurts to lose," said Thoresen.
Canada outshot Norway 38-20 overall but this game was much closer than the last time the two teams met in the Olympics in Vancouver in 2010 when Canada cruised to an 8-0 win.
- Embarrassing quarter-final loss -
Following an embarrassing 7-3 quarter-final loss to Canada in 2010, Russia are desperate to show they can win a gold medal on their home soil.
After racing into a 2-0 lead, they conceded twice in the second period while scoring once themselves, starting the third period with a slender 3-2 lead before adding two more goals.
Ovechkin said they got sidetracked because they wanted to put on a show for the raucous crowd inside the Bolshoi rink which chanted, stomped their feet and waved red and blue flags throughout the contest.
"We started well and got the lead but then we stopped playing," Ovechkin said. "We tried to make casual moves and when we had a chance to shoot the puck we didn't do it.
"We tried to play too beautiful for our fans."
Ovechkin said the team got too fancy, especially in the second period, thinking they could rest on their two-goal lead.
"It is good to get this kind of lesson," he said. "When you get a 2-0 lead you feel like the game is going to be easy and we stopped playing."
Ovechkin scored on his first shot of the tournament after just 77 seconds and also provided an assist on Evgeny Malkin's goal a few minutes later in the opening period.
The USA dominated the second period against Slovakia with two goals in 66 seconds.
Ryan Kesler scored to make it 2-1 after 1:26 and Paul Stastny made it 3-1 after 2:32.
David Backes scored from a scramble and Stastny notched his second after 13:30 to make it 5-1.
Stastny's goal chased goalie Jaroslav Halak from the net and he was replaced by Peter Budaj, who was in the game just 50 seconds when Phil Kessel scored to make it 6-1.