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Slovenia stuns U.S. in men's hockey opener

From ESPN - February 14, 2018

GANGNEUNG, South Korea -- Five practices were supposed to prepare the Americans for this, and they knew at the second intermission that Slovenia was going to come out punching.

The preparation and the knowledge were not enough to fend off the fatigue, as the United States blew a two-goal lead and lost a 3-2 stunner in overtime Wednesday night in the Olympic opener for both teams. Slovenia captain Jan Mursak scored the tying goal with 1:37 left in regulation and the winner 38 seconds into overtime.

Long before that, the U.S. started letting the game slip away with mistakes all over the ice.

"We started turning the puck over in our zone, and they were getting chances, and that led to some momentum for them," said goaltender Ryan Zapolski, who allowed three goals on 25 shots. "We ca not give up those chances that we were giving up out of nothing there in the third. That really kills your momentum. And they scored a goal off one of them, and from that point we were kind of on our heels."

Brian O'Neill and Jordan Greenway, the latter who became the first African-American hockey player for the U.S. at an Olympics, scored to build the 2-0 lead in a dominant showing, and the shots were 24-12 after two periods. Coach Tony Granato pointed out that Slovenia probably should have been the more tired team from playing so much in its defensive zone, but there was none of that from a group that has only one player -- Mursak -- with NHL experience.

In the game because of goalie Gasper Kroselj, who stopped 34 of 36 shots, Slovenia came to life when Jan Urbas scored 5:37 into the third period. With fans chanting "SLO-VE-NI-A," the perennial underdogs started pouring it on.

"We outskated them in the third, especially, and had more energy," said Mursak, who spent time with the Detroit Red Wings. "After we scored that first goal, I think we really got that extra energy and the feeling that can score some more."

After flashing the breakneck speed of forward Garrett Roe on O'Neill's goal and the quick reaction of Greenway on his rebound tally, the U.S. suddenly looked gassed. Granato wondered whether 21 players dressing in their first Olympic game combined with the hype and long day before a late start took a toll on his team, which had not played together much.

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