By Steve Keating
SOCHI, Russia, Feb 8 (Reuters) - The United States eased past Finland 3-1 on Saturday as the women's ice hockey competition at the Sochi Olympics got off to a familiar start with one-sided victory.
The United States and Canada have won every gold medal since women's ice hockey joined the Winter Games progamme in 1998 and the Americans signaled they are once again ready to challenge for top spot with a clinical victory.
The United States, who chose not to take part in Friday's opening ceremony in order to rest ahead of the game, scored on their first shot, just 53 seconds into the opening period.
Hilary Knight stole the puck and rifled it past netminder Finland netminder Noora Raty to open the scoring.
Kelli Stack and Alex Carpenter added goals in the second period to make it 3-0 before Susanna Tapani pulled a goal back for Finland to spoil U.S. netminder Jessie Vetter's shutout bid with just under five minutes to play in the third.
Only a valliant effort from Finn goalie Noora Raty prevented the contest from becoming a complete rout as the United States outshot Finland 43-15. (Editing by Peter Rutherford)