SOCHI, Russia - For Paul Stastny, Team USA's opening game of the Winter Olympics hockey tournament had very special meaning.
In essence, he was playing against his own family, his own bloodlines, his own hockey roots.
"It's the culture I grew up in," the Colorado Avalanche center said.
But that didn't make the 7-1 victory over Slovakia on Wednesday morning feel any less special. It was, in fact, probably even sweeter.
"It's the first time I've beat them in three tries," Stastny said after his two-goal performance powered a six-goal, second-period outburst by the Americans. "Playing against Canada and Russia is fun but for me it's just as fun playing against Slovakia."
That's because his father, Peter, was a star with the former Czechoslovakia, playing in the 1980 Olympics before defecting so he could play in the NHL.
When Czechoslovakia split and Slovakia gained independence, Peter played for Slovakia in the 1994 Olympic Games. He carried the flag in the 1994 opening ceremonies in Lillehammer, Norway.
"That was one of the most humbling things he's ever done," Paul Stastny said. "It's always special for me playing against Slovakia. I know family back home is watching."
Peter Stastny was in the stands at Shayba Arena to watch his son. Peter apparently isn't torn on who to root for when it's his son against his homeland.
"He did an interview the other day and he was asked who he'll be cheering for and he said, 'We're playing Slovakia,' " said Paul Stastny, who is fourth in scoring for the Avalanche with 17 goals, 24 assists and 41 points in 52 NHL games. "He's living vicariously through his children so we have to uphold the tradition."
He succeeded, scoring twice in the second-period uprising that instantly turned a 1-1 tie into a laugher.
Toronto Maple Leafs winger Phil Kessel scored one goal and assisted on two, and John Carlson, Ryan Kesler, David Backes and Dustin Brown also found the net.
Carlson scored the only goal of the first period against Slovakia. Tomas Tatar tied the score just 24 seconds into the second period. The Slovaks were energized - for 62 seconds.
Kesler scored off a Patrick Kane pass at 1:26, Stastny made it 3-1 just 1:06 later and then Backes, Stastny, Kessel and Brown scored between 8:16 and 15:17 and the rout was on.
"That goal (by Tatar) kind of slapped us in the face; we had to get going," Backes said.
It didn't matter who was in goal for Slovakia, either. Jaroslav Halak started but gave up five goals on 25 shots. Peter Budaj relieved with 6:30 left in the second period, following Stastny's second goal.
Since the NHL took over Olympic men's hockey in 1998, the largest margin of victory by a U.S. team was 8-1 over Belarus in the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games.
U.S. goalie Jonathan Quick wasn't required to do anything out of the ordinary, especially with the big lead. He made 22 saves.
The Americans seem to realize that they're just one game into the tournament, that a seven-goal winning margin won't win them gold.
"That was a good start," San Jose Sharks winger Joe Pavelski said.
Kevin Oklobzija writes for the Democrat and Chronicle in Rochester, N.Y.
(Copyright © 2014 USA TODAY)