ST. PAUL, Minn. - Upset by the lackluster play of some veterans, Team USA coach Ron Wilson benched Brett Hull and three other regulars. Wilson described the move as "the most difficult decision I've made as a coach."
But, it worked.
With younger, fresher legs, the U.S. team finally showed some energy in the World Cup of Hockey, beating Slovakia 3-1 Friday for its first win.
"Now, we have an opportunity to still play here on Tuesday, which is a great boost for us," Dallas Stars forward Mike Modano said.
Bill Guerin, Jason Blake and Bryan Smolinski scored for the Americans, who moved into third place in the North American Division. Slovakia dropped to fourth at 0-2.
"We need to look at each other and start over again," Minnesota Wild forward Marian Gaborik said.
After being outworked against Canada and Russia, the Americans responded with their best offensive output, outshooting Slovakia 39-17. The U.S. team had 24 shots against Canada and 21 against Russia.
Wilson started goaltender Rick DiPietro to save Robert Esche from playing three games in four nights. Esche stopped 72 shots against Canada and Russia. DiPietro didn't face nearly the same intensity against Slovakia, finishing with 16 saves.
CZECHS 7, GERMANY 2: The Czech Republic scored three goals in three minutes during the second period in Prague. Marek Zidlicky of the Nashville Predators scored on a power play 2:56 into the second with a slap shot. Jiri Slegr of the Boston Bruins added the second goal moments later and Jaromir Jagr scored the third from close range at 5:52. Jagr, star of the New York Rangers, scored his first goal of the tournament. The Czechs added two more goals in the second. The Lightning's Vinny Prospal had one of the Czechs' two goals in the third.
SABRES: Forward Thomas Vanek agreed to a three-year deal, passing up his final two years of college eligibility at Minnesota. Selected fifth overall by Buffalo in the 2003 draft, Vanek's deal is worth close to the NHL rookie maximum of $1.19-million. He led Minnesota in scoring in each of his first two seasons with a total of 57 goals and 56 assists.
EX-OILER SHMYR DEAD: Paul Shmyr, the former NHL and WHA defenseman who captained the Edmonton Oilers in Wayne Gretzky's first season with the team in 1978-79, died in Surrey, British Columbia, after a battle with throat cancer. He was 58.