This U.S. win already was secured by the time Michael Phelps left his rinkside seat. Then it turned into a rout.
A big surge in the final minutes helped the American men's hockey team complete a 6-1 win over outmatched Norway on Thursday, but now the club will dive into the deep end of the pool against heavily favored Canada on Sunday with a bye into the quarterfinals on the line.
With Phelps, the U.S. Olympic swimming star watching from four rows off center ice, the Americans improved to 2-0 in these games. Phelps didn't see all the scoring because he left with 5½ minutes remaining, just after the U.S. made it 4-1.
Nursing a two-goal lead for much of the final two periods, the Americans broke it open when defenseman Brian Rafalski scored twice in the final three minutes.
"We've got some work to do still, there's no question about that," U.S. captain Jamie Langenbrunner said. "We're making far too many mistakes we can't be making against Canada."
Phil Kessel and Chris Drury had first-period goals, Patrick Kane stretched the lead to 3-0 in the second, and Ryan Malone added his second of the tournament to back seldom-tested goalie Ryan Miller.
The Americans held a 39-11 edge in shots over Norway, which has been outscored 14-1 in two games.
Rafalski netted a power-play goal with 3 minutes remaining and then finished the late outburst in the final minute. The Americans will have a day off Friday from games and practice. The U.S. was 1-4-1 at the Turin Games four years ago and can make a Phelps-like splash should they upset the Canadians.
"Come the Canada game, we've got to play playoff-type hockey — dump the puck in," Malone said. "It's not rocket science."
With only a 3-1 victory Tuesday over Switzerland, the U.S. was facing tiebreaker danger should it fall to Canada. Four teams clinch spots in the quarterfinals, while the other eight countries will play for the other four spots. Goal differential is a key tiebreaker, so lopsided wins are beneficial.
"We're definitely confident," forward Zach Parise said. "There's still room for improvement. I don't think we've played near our best hockey.
"We're not concerned about what Canada did against them. We want to get out of that qualification round, where plus-minus is a big thing."
The Americans held a 15-2 shots advantage through the first period and 23-9 after 40 minutes. But Miller was beaten for a short-handed goal by Marius Holtet in the second.
That gave the Norwegians, seeded 11th in the 12-team tournament, something to celebrate after an 8-0 loss in their opener to Canada on Tuesday.
"We were in it for 55 minutes," Holtet said. "They were controlling the game, but we were hanging in there and probably should have scored on a couple more of our other chances."
Chants of "USA USA" broke out less than 20 seconds in and before the Americans recorded their first shot. Unlike Wednesday, when ABBA music was played during stoppages of Sweden's game against Germany, U.S. artists — Bruce Springsteen, John Denver, Bon Jovi — were on the playlist.
Not to be outdone, many fans decked out in red — Norway and Canada varieties — yelled support for the decided underdogs with loud chants of "Let's Go Norway!"
"Ha!" Miller said with a laugh. "There had to be a few Canadians in there. That's fine. The whole house will be against us on Sunday."
The Americans' top line connected in the second period for its first goal. Kane slipped a pass to Parise at the left point and charged to the net as Parise fired a shot. Pal Grotnes, who despite allowing four goals called the loss to Canada the best game he ever played, left a big rebound off his pad that Kane steered into the open right side to make it 3-0 at 5:52.
Grotnes didn't finish the game against Canada and was said to have leg cramps.
"We just tightened up the defense a little bit from last game," Grotnes said. "We're confident with the fact we created some chances."
The U.S. had numerous chances to put the game away on its power play, but only scored once in five advantages. Kane made a nifty move deep in the zone to get around a defender, drawing oohs from the crowd. But instead of shooting, he tried to pass to Langenbrunner on his left wing.
The puck missed its target, and Holtet led a 2-on-1 rush the other way. Holtet zipped a drive from the right circle that eluded Miller's blocker and found its way in off the post at 8:37 to bring Norway within 3-1.
"They wanted to try and put a little whipped cream on top of the plays they're making, and it doesn't always work," U.S. coach Ron Wilson said.
Miller was better with 4:22 remaining in the period when he did the splits to stop a redirected shot off the stick of Anders Bastiansen that barely caught his pad before it could find its way into the net.
The Buffalo Sabres star goalie, who Wilson said will start every game barring something drastic, faced only two shots in the first period, but both were prime scoring chances for Jonas Andersen. The second was a one-timer from the right circle that had Miller darting across the crease.
Kessel gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead just 2:39 in when he received a pass in the neutral zone from Joe Pavelski and snapped off a laser shot that caromed in off the crossbar before Grotnes had a chance to stop it. Drury, whose selection to the U.S. team received some criticism because of a lack of recent scoring production, validated the move at 13:04.
David Backes, who scored an end-to-end goal Tuesday, sent a pass to Ryan Callahan for a shot that bounced off his pad to New York Rangers teammate Drury for an easy putback that made it 2-0.
Miller started the rush and earned an assist in the third when he sent Jack Johnson on a 2-on-1 that Malone cleaned up with a rebound goal with 5:41 remaining.
NOTES: Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick served as Miller's backup, taking the place of Boston's Tim Thomas, who had that role in the Olympic opener. ... Norway is 0-4-1 against the U.S. in Olympic play and has been outscored 20-10. The teams hadn't met since the 1988 Calgary Games.