The Buffalo Sabres' Ryan Miller stopped 17 of the 18 shots he faced Sunday to lead Team USA to a 5-1 win over Slovenia in the preliminary round of the 2014 Winter Olympics. The win clinches Group A for the Americans and secures a first-round bye for them in the medal round.
Phil Kessel opened the scoring for the Americans three times over. He netted a natural hat trick in the first and second periods, during which the Slovenians mounted few serious threats. Ryan McDonagh scored the fourth goal for the Americans, with David Backes closing out the scoring for the United States early in the third period.
Only a Marcel Rodman goal with 18 seconds left in the game ruined the shutout for Miller, who made his first start of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Sunday after starring for Team USA in 2010. Jonathan Quick started the first two games and figures to be the starter through the rest of the tournament. Miller improved his Olympic record to 6-1 all-time with a .945 save percentage and 1.30 GAA.
The Americans improved to 2-0-1-0 in the preliminary round. Those 8 points are good for first place. Russia beat Slovakia 1-0 in a shootout Sunday to place second at 1-0-1-1. Slovenia finished third with 1-2-0-0, while Slovakia placed last at 0-2-0-1. Slovenia is playing in its first-ever Olympics and scored its first win Saturday over Slovakia.
The medal round begins Tuesday. The eight lower seeds will play then, with the winners advancing to play the top four seeds in Wednesday's quarterfinals. The Americans will open the medal round Wednesday against a team to be determined.
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