Russians pound Slovenia 8-2 in Olympic men’s hockey

Russian athlete Sergei Kalinin (21) celebrates his goal with Russian athlete Ilya Kovalchuk (71) during the second period of the preliminary round of the men's hockey game against Slovenia at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Gangneung, South Korea, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

GANGNEUNG, South Korea (AP) Russia is looking more like the gold-medal favorite everyone expected it to be.

Minnesota Wild prospect Kirill Kaprizov scored a hat trick as the ”Olympic Athletes from Russia” routed Slovenia 8-2 on Friday. For the Russians, it was a rebound from a surprising 3-2 loss to Slovakia in the Olympic opener.

Slovenia was coming off a 3-2 overtime win against the United States, but was overmatched in this one. It was the largest margin of victory in an Olympic men’s hockey tournament since Canada beat Austria 6-0 in 2014.

The Russians will next play the U.S. on Saturday in a game likely to determine who finishes atop the Group B standings.

Sergei Mozyakin got the Russians started with a laser shot off Pavel Datysuk’s pass at 18:23 of the first period, and it took just 22 seconds for Ilya Kovalchuk to make it 2-0.

The Russians scored four times in 12 minutes during the second period on goals by Alexander Barabanov, Ilya Kablukov, Kaprizov and Kovalchuk.

Former Detroit Red Wings forward Jan Mursak – who scored twice against the U.S. – scored off a pass from Miha Verlic in the second period, but Kaprizov scored twice in the third as the Russians pulled away. Slovenia’s Ziga Pance made it 8-2 late.

Russian Vasili Koshechkin allowed one goal off eight shots before being replaced after the second period with Ilya Sorokin, who made six saves off seven shots. Slovenia’s Luka Gracnar allowed eight goals off 34 shots.

Even though the International Olympic Committee has barred Russian athletes from competing under their own flag at the Olympics due to doping at the 2014 Sochi Games, there were plenty of Russian flags in the stands. For a while in the first period, there were even two large banners depicting the face of Russian President Vladimir Putin and messages of support for the Russian team.

Police and security intervened and the banners were removed. IOC rules bar political statements at Olympic events.

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