Americans Rout Slovakia, Advance to Medal Round
With its medal-round hopes on the line, the United States re-discovered its offense with an 9-3 win against Slovakia on Monday.
Vincent Trocheck and John Gaudreau had two goals and an assist each to lead the U.S. attack. Jimmy Vesey, given a larger role after playing limited minutes as the 13th forward in the first three games, had three assists.
The win clinches third place in Group B for the U.S., and sends them into the medal round, where they'll next face the second-place team from Group A in a quarterfinal game Wednesday. The opponent will be determined by the result of a Group A game between Sweden and Finland later Momday.
After scoring eight goals against Germany in their tournament opener, the Americans had been held to one goal in each of their last two, back-to-back 2-1 losses to Russia and Canada.
"The right guys scored for us tonight," U.S. coach Phil Housley said on NHL Network. "It was distributed throughout our team. It's funny, we either score eight or more or get one. I really liked their start, the way we played. We could play with a little more discipline, but I thought the third period we really got into good habits. We look forward to our next game in the quarters."
The U.S. penalty killers played a significant role in the victory, killing off six of seven Slovakia power plays. They allowed just one goal, on a five-minute slashing major assessed to defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere late in the first period. They also killed off two extended 5-on-3 Slovakia power plays in the second period.
Goalie John Gibson was a big part of that, as he finished with 26 saves.
The victory is a bit of redemption for the United States, which lost its final three games of the preliminary round at last year's tournament and was sent to the relegation pool en route to a seventh-place finish.
Matus Matis had a pair of goals, and Richard Mraz also scored for Slovakia.
The Americans started the scoring early, getting five goals in the first period. Cole Bardreau started the scoring, getting a breakaway goal just 4:05 into the game.
The goal was the first by a U.S. forward since J.T. Miller scored in the third period of the team's first game, a span of more than 135 minutes of game action.
However, the lead held for just 14 seconds as Matis scored on a breakaway of his own after a U.S. turnover.
Defensive-minded defenseman Jake McCabe put the U.S. ahead for good at 5:10 of the period when he got down into the slot and took a nice pass from Vesey and scored off a backhander. Gaudreau built on the lead when he scored off the rebound of a Vesey shot at 9:00.
Slovakia tried to change things up by replacing goalie Adam Nagy with Patrik Romancik, but it didn't help, as the U.S. made it 4-1 when Mike Reilly snuck in from the point to tip a Vesey shot past Romancik at 11:46.
Jacob Trouba, who had scored the only goals by the U.S. in the past two games, made it 5-1 when he scored at 13:50, knocking in the puck after Sean Kuraly led a rush. It's the fourth goal for Trouba, and third straight game in which he has had a power-play goal.
The period was marred by the slashing major and game misconduct assessed to Gostisbehere, but Mraz's goal late in the first was the only goal the U.S. allowed during the penalty kill.
In the second, the U.S. took advantage of its own man-advantage chances. With Matis in the box, Gaudreau scored off the rush to at 4:55 to make it 6-2, and with Marko Dano in the box for roughing, Trocheck got open in the slot and scored off a pass from behind the net by Gaudreau to make it 7-2.
"I think [Trocheck]'s been an excellent penalty killer for us," U.S. coach Phil Housley said on NHL Network. "You can see on the 5-on-3, how much of a great instinct he has, creating the play, blocking the shots. We threw him on the power play with [J.T.] Miller and Gaudreau and it seemed to click today."
After killing a two-man Slovakia advantage, Trocheck scored again to make it 8-2. The Florida Panthers prospect won a faceoff in the Slovakia end, went to the net, and was in the right place to score off a nice feed from Tyler Biggs.
Matis' second goal of the game made it 8-3 in the third, but Alex Galchenyuk answered with a power-play goal at 16:16.
Contact Adam Kimelman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
Author: Adam Kimelman | NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor