Team USA men's hockey opened Olympic play Wednesday in PyeongChang against Slovenia. Jan Mursak scored the tying goal in the final minutes of regulation and the victor in overtime as Slovenia came back to stun the United States 3-2 in the Olympic opener for both teams.
Ice Hockey - Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Men Preliminary Round Match - Slovakia v Olympic Athletes from Russia - Gangneung Hockey Centre, Gangneung, South Korea - February 14, 2018 - Peter Ceresnak of Slovakia (14) celebrates his third period goal with teammates on the bench. Kroselj stopped 34 of the 36 shots he faced to pick up the victory, giving up goals to Brian O'Neill and Jordan Greenway.
The Olympic athletes from Russian Federation team also suffered a surprise opening defeat as Slovakia's Peter Ceresnak scored the decisive goal in their 3-2 win.
Before the tournament, the Russians were considered to be the gold-medal favorites in the first Olympics since 1994 without National Hockey League players.
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The United States built a 2-0 lead and a 24-12 shot advantage on Slovenia through two periods, but got completely manhandled by a hockey country nearly exclusively known for producing Anze Kopitar in the third frame. The U.S. conceded the game-tying goal with less than 90 seconds remaining in the third period.
The American's loss was definitely a bad one, but OAR getting dropped by Slovakia - in regulation no less - is even more of a mind-bender.
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Kroselj made a handful of quality saves to keep Slovenia in the game, and Zapolski had to do the same in the second period, stopping Urbas on a one-timer with Greenway in the box and the US on the penalty kill.
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Every team advances to the knockout stage, but Team USA is in danger of a hard first game in the knockout round if it can't right the ship after Wednesday's loss. But even with NHL talent in Team USA's Olympic hockey roster during the past few Games, the US only made it on the podium twice, in 2002 in Salt Lake City and 2010 in Vancouver, winning silver both times. Zapolski, 31, has appeared in 38 games with Jokerit of the KHL this season, sporting a 1.73 goals-against average and.932 save percentage.
The Americans didn't come out with any spark in the third period. "It's a good team, I'll give them credit". Many spent stints in the NHL - five games here, 10 more there - before turning to a journeyman career in European leagues. Granato said fatigue and the hype of the game might have been a little too much for some of his players. Then, Jan Mursak tied the game with less than two minutes to play despite not having the goaltender pulled to send the game to 3-on-3 overtime. "I thought the best part of the beginning of the game was that we were pushing pucks, hunting pucks, putting [Slovenia] in tough situations".
No kidding. "That third period", O'Neill said, "is something we need to learn from".
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