He had a chance in May 2012 at the IIHF world championship in Helsinki, scoring a goal but watching Slovakia defeat the U.S., 4-2. He had a chance in May 2013 at the same tournament in the same city, only to go pointless in a 4-1 loss.
On Thursday night, Paul Stastny finally beat Slovakia – and picked a hell of a moment to do so.
Stastny scored two goals in leading Team USA to a 7-1 thrashing of Slovakia in the opening game of the 2014 Sochi Olympics men’s hockey tournament.
“It’s always special,” he said regarding his games against Slovakia. “I always know family back home is watching. Both of my parents are Slovakian, my grandparents speak it. It’s the culture I grew up in.
Both of his goals came during an offensive explosion for the U.S. in the second period, answered a Slovakian goal that tied the game with six goals in 14 minutes – tying a USA Hockey record for most goals scored in a single period.
“It’s huge. All four lines kind of clicked. All facets of the game did really well, from the defensive zone to the ‘O’ zone. First period, I thought we played pretty well, had a lot of chances, and then just kind of built on it. Big win for us,” he said.
After the U.S, retook the lead, Stastny scored into an open net after goalie Jaroslav Halak had to slide to his right to make a save on U.S. forward Max Pacioretty. The rebound was giftwrapped for Stastny in front. His second goal made it 5-1, tipping home a feed from defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk.
Stastny only scored one goal in six games in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.
He made Team USA’s Sochi roster as, essentially, a fourth liner, playing with Pacioretty of the Montreal Canadiens and TJ Oshie of the St. Louis Blues.
“You certainly see skill and talent on the top two lines. But we talked about it going into the game, that the lne of Stastny, Pacioretty and Oshie could be our best line in this game,” said Coach Dan Bylsma.
They were, and Stastny was a key reason for it. The Americans entered the game with questions about their ability to play on big ice, along with lingering questions about their strength at center.
Stansty may have helped provide answers for both, while at the same time finally toppling the nation his father represented on the international stage.
“I’ve never beaten these guys,” said Paul Stastny. “It was nice to get it on my third try, on the most important stage.”