Team USA crumbles late, falls to Slovenia in shocking Olympic hockey opener
After dominating early, the United States gave up a late equalizer to Slovenia and then lost in overtime
The United States' men's hockey team looked to be in great shape to win their opening game against Slovenia at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang on Wednesday, but things went south in a hurry for the Americans. After jumping out to a 2-0 lead, USA gave up two third period goals -- including a late equalizer -- and allowed Slovenia to force overtime. Then, the Americans surrendered the game-winner less than a minute into OT and were handed a shocking 3-2 loss.
Slovenian captain Jan Mursak, a former Detroit Red Wings draft pick, got both the game-tying and game-winning goals for Slovenia. The United States got off to a good start, taking control from the early going and owning the majority of scoring chances in the first frame. Brian O'Neill opened the scoring for the United States in the first frame when he wrangled a deflected pass from Ryan Donato in the slot, then fired a wrist shot past the Slovenian goalie.
The Americans doubled that lead in the second period when Jordan Greenway -- the 20-year-old Boston University product and Minnesota Wild prospect who is also the first black hockey player to suit up for Team USA at the Olympics -- buried a rebound down low to make it 2-0.
But Slovenia didn't quit and found a way to put pressure on in the third period. The Slovenians got on the board when Blaz Gregorc fired a wrister through traffic from the right faceoff circle just over five minutes into the period. That shot beat USA goalie Ryan Zapolski, who was screened, and cut the Americans' lead to 2-1.
USA was able to stave off the Slovenian attack and hang onto its lead heading into the home stretch, but couldn't finish the job.
With under two minutes left in regulation and the goalie pulled, Slovenia's Mursak slipped behind the Team USA defense and set up shop in front of the American net. Mursak found the equalizer when a shot from the point got knocked down and trickled its way to his stick just outside the crease. He buried the chance and tied the game at 2-2.
It was a demoralizing goal to give up, but the Americans had a chance to bounce back and show some resilience in overtime. However, it was Mursak who once again crushed their hopes.
Just 38 seconds into the extra frame, a defensive lapse from the Americans allowed Mursak to be left all alone in front and he buried an easy goal to end the game.
It's an extremely disappointing start for the United States, playing their first Olympic men's hockey game played without NHL players since 1994. Now, this American team -- -- will have to bounce back quickly and finish group play strong if they want to position themselves to medal in the elimination round.
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