SOCHI, Russia — Showing few signs of a letdown after its emotional victory over Russia, the U.S. men’s hockey team on Sunday rode a hat trick from Phil Kessel to a 5-1 victory over Slovenia at Shayba Arena in its final preliminary-round game.
Ryan Miller of the Buffalo Sabres, starting in goal while Jonathan Quick got a day off, stopped 17 shots from the plucky but undersized and overwhelmed Slovenians until Marcel Rodman scored on a long blast with 17.6 seconds left in the third period.
With only one NHL player in its lineup — Kings center Anze Kopitar — Slovenia did well to get this far and win a game in its first-ever Olympic tournament. Slovenia’s lone victory came against Slovakia.
Team USA previously defeated Slovakia, 7-1, and edged Russia, 3-2, in an eight-round shootout to finish preliminary-round play with a 3-0 record.
Kopitar was not on his team’s bench in the third period.
Matjaz Kopitar, Anze's father and the team's coach, said his son began to feel ill because of what's believed to be a bout of the stomach flu, and the decision was made to leave him in the locker room for the third period. "He just didn't feel good, something with the stomach. He was without the power," Matjaz Kopitar said. "Hopefully he's going to be better." Matjaz said Anze would be taken to the clinic in the athletes' village for further examination. "Nothing major, I think," Matjaz Kopitar said.
Kessel became the first player on the U.S. men’s team to record a hat trick since John LeClair scored three goals against Finland in the 2002 Salt Lake City Games. Joe Pavelski assisted on all three.