U.S. Women Off to Strong Start With Victory Over Finland - NBC Chicago
Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

Winter Olympics Sochi 2014

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U.S. Women Off to Strong Start With Victory Over Finland

Knight's early goal sets the tone as Americans dominate first game of tournament

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    SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 08: Kelli Stack #16 of United States celebrates with her teammate Hilary Knight #21, Alex Carpenter #25 and Megan Bozek #9 after scoring a goal in the second period against Noora Raty #41 of Finland during the Women's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A Game on day 1 of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Shayba Arena on February 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)

    The game started out like the U.S. was going to run away with it, as Knight scored just 53 seconds into the game. On a careless turnover by Finland in the neutral zone, Knight grabbed the puck, sprinted in on a breakaway, and snapped off a quick wrist shot that beat Raty to give the Americans a 1-0 lead.

    In what would quickly become the dominant narrative of the game, the Finnish goaltender was bound and determined to keep her team in the game. First it was Kelli Stack who was on the wrong end of the stick, as she got two great chances from a wide open spot in front of the net, but Raty was up to the task as she knocked away both shots in short order to keep the deficit at one.

    Later in the first period, the Americans got their second power play, but they were once again unsuccessful in converting on it. Stack got some great pressure again in front, but her chance was denied by Raty. Carpenter also jumped into the fray, swatting away at a puck in front but not quite getting it back on net.

    After a first period in which the US outshot the Finns 15-3, the second period started out in much the same fashion. Carpenter got a juicy rebound in front off a shot on the rush, but she whiffed on the back-handed attempt. On the very next sequence. Stack flew up the ice to create another chance, but Raty was able to slide across the crease perfectly and shouldered the puck into the corner. Finally, Amanda Kessel came into the zone and got a great shot, but her shot ended up ringing off the post.

    Finally, the breakthrough came for the U.S., and they were able to extend their lead. Off a face-off win, Meghan Bozek fired the puck wide of the net. Knight put the rebound back on net, but Raty made the save. With the puck in the air, a net-crashing Stack ended up seeing the puck bounce off her arm and into the cage, and video review upheld the tally as the Americans grabbed a 2-0 lead.

    Several more U.S. chances came in the ensuing minutes, but Raty was still up to the task, despite the deficit. First it was Carpenter who had a great chance on a rush in, but Raty was able to fly across the crease and stop the shot with her elbow. Then Jocelyn Lamoureux put a shot off the post just as another American power play expired.

    With another power play opportunity thanks to a Venla Hovi penalty, Carpenter was finally able to get on the board. Off a shot from the point that bounced off the boards, Carpenter somehow managed a backhanded shot on net, and it beat Raty to the far post, giving the U.S. a 3-0 lead.
    Finland did get a late power play in the second period, but their only good chance came to nothing as Jessie Vetter was able to stop a shot that deflected off an American defender in front of the goal.

    With a 33-7 lead in shots on goal, the U.S. headed into the second intermission with their three goal lead intact.

    The start of the third period saw a bit more even-keeled play, with both teams picking up a couple of good chances, but both goaltenders were on their game. Perhaps the best chance of the early stages of the period came when Monique Lamoureux got in behind the Finnish defense, but she was forced to rush a short-angled shot that Raty pushed back into the middle of the ice to keep the deficit at three goals. 

    A few minutes later, Kessel drove into the zone on a 2-on-1, and even though she made an incredible deke, her shot ended up sliding just wide of a sprawling Raty. 

    After a couple more American opportunities, Finland got a chance on the power play after a Brianna Decker penalty, and they were able to take advantage. Michelle Karvinen intercepted a pass along the boards behind the U.S. net, and Susanna Tapani received a pass in front and poked it past Vetter to get Finland on the board, though they still trailed 3-1. 

    The game ended with the Finnish net empty, but they couldn't get any sustained pressure going at the U.S. end of the ice, and the Americans ended up triumphing as the final buzzer sounded. 

    The U.S. will next battle Switzerland on Monday morning at 4 a.m. CT. The game will air live on NBCSN, with a replay of the contest at 4 p.m. CT.