McDonagh Scores, Stepan Debuts, In USA's 5-1 Win Over Slovenia

Jim Cerny
BlueshirtsUnited.com

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Ryan McDonagh and Ryan Callahan both recorded their first points of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and Derek Stepan made his Olympic debut, as the United States defeated Slovenia, 5-1, on Sunday to wrap up preliminary play atop Group A. Team USA advanced directly to the quarterfinals on Wednesday by winning all three of their prelim games--two in regulation and one in the shotoout--to secure eight of a possible nine points.

For the second straight game in this tournament McDonagh posted the second-highest ice-time total for the United States--slightly behind defense partner Ryan Suter. In addition it was the second consecutive contest in which McDonagh transitioned smoothly to the more unfamiliar right side so that the veteran Suter could play the left side.

With the U.S. already holding a 3-0 lead--on a Phil Kessel natural Hat Trick--McDonagh recorded his first point as an Olympian, hammering a Blake Wheeler feed into the cage at the 12:17 mark of the second period. With all of the gritty work McDonagh has done in these Winter Games, it seemed a just reward for him to be able to find the spotlight and score a goal. McDonagh finished with four shots on goal and a +1 plus/minus rating in 19:38 worth of ice time.

McDonagh was not the only Ranger playing for Team USA who achieved a "first" at the Sochi Olympics. Callahan also earned his first point of these Winter Games--assisting on a David Backes goal 3:26 into the third period--and Stepan appeared in his first game, making his Olympic debut after being a healthy scratch in Team USA's initial two contests.

Callahan picked up his assist by whipping a backhand pass across the crease from left wing to Backes who was charging hard to the net. Displaying his trademark gritty style of play, Callahan finished with one shot on goal and a +1 plus/minus mark while totaling 14:57 worth of ice time.

Though he did not receive a lot of playing time--just four minutes 59 seconds--Stepan seemed thrilled to be making his Olympic debut. A star for the United States' gold medal-winning World Junior Championship team in 2010, Stepan played on mixed lines Sunday, including several shifts with the hero of Saturday's shootout win over Russia, T.J. Oshie.

Kessel opened the scoring just 64 seconds into play, and then scored again before the first period was over. He concluded his Hat Trick midway through the second period, with Joe Pavelski assisting on all three goals. Ryan Miller started in goal for the United States and lost his shutout bid with 17.6 seconds remaining in the final period of play. He made 17 saves on Sunday.

The three Ranger U.S. Olympians can now sit back and wait to see who their next opponent will be, with knock out play amongst the bottom eight teams in the tournament taking place on Tuesday. Sweden, with Rangers Henrik Lundqvist and Carl Hagelin on its roster, also has advanced to the quarterfinals on Wednesday by finishing in first place in Group C.

Mats Zuccarello and Norway finished prelim round play with a 3-1 loss to Austria on Sunday. Norway lost all three of its preliminary games.