Russia, USA begin with easy ice hockey wins

16:00, Feb 13 2014
Alexander Popov
ICY COLLISION: Russia's Alexander Popov skates into Slovenia's Sabahudin Kovacevic during their ice hockey group game. Russia won 5-2.

Russia got the Olympic men's ice hockey competition off to a rollicking start with a 5-2 win over feisty Slovenia on Thursday (local time) to keep the host country's gold medal dreams on track.

The United States kicked off their quest for the men's ice hockey gold medal in Sochi with a 7-1 rout of Slovakia.

Going up against a Slovenian team making their Olympic debut, it was supposed to be a leisurely beginning to the tournament for the mighty Russians whose lineup features some of the world's top talent.

But Slovenia, with just one National Hockey League player on their roster, briefly threatened to pull off the biggest Olympic ice hockey upset since the 1980 Lake Placid 'Miracle on Ice' until Russia showed their class with a third period burst.

Clinging to a 3-2 lead going into the final period, Valery Nichushkin and Anton Belov scored to put Russia back in charge and settle nerves at the soldout Bolshoy Ice Dome.

Alex Ovechkin, a three-times NHL most valuable player, Evgeny Malkin, another NHL MVP, and Ilya Kovalchuk had the other Russian goals.

Ziga Jeglic scored twice for Slovenia.

The Americans, looking to improve on their silver from the 2010 Games, scored six goals in the second period to snuff out any hopes Slovakia had of pulling off an upset.

Slovakia, who made an unlikely run to the bronze medal game in 2010, made a decent start and drew even at 1-1 with a goal 24 seconds into the second period.

However, they were unable to keep pace with the Americans, who responded with a goal a minute later before pulling away to complete the rout ahead of the intermission.