With no NHL players, everyone figured Team USA wouldn’t be very good. No one expected they’d be “lose to Slovenia” bad. But here we are! Team USA surrendered a two-goal third-period lead and allowed two late goals to Jan Muršak, giving Slovenia the 3-2 overtime win in the first game for both teams.
Brian O’Neill and Jordan Greenway gave the U.S. a 2-0 lead heading into the third, and that’s right about when they stopped pressuring and sat back to try to protect the lead. They did not. Blaž Gregorc halved Slovenia’s deficit 5:49 into the frame, and then it became the Jan Muršak show.
Muršak, the only Slovenian player with NHL experience—46 games with the Red Wings between 2010 and 2013—might’ve been the best player on the ice in the latter part of the game. (And you’d have been looking for him if you read our Olympic men’s hockey preview.) Slovenia had all the momentum as the game ticked away, and after pulling the goalie, Muršak’s goal to tie it up with 1:37 remaining felt almost inevitable. A defensive breakdown then let Muršak in all alone on Ryan Zapolski, and he finished things just 38 seconds into 3-on-3 overtime.
It’s a bad, bad loss, even if the group stage doesn’t eliminate anyone and only serves to determine the seeding for the knockout rounds. If there’s a silver lining for the U.S., it’s that Slovakia beat gold-medal favorite Russia on Wednesday, perhaps a sign that this tournament is even more wide-open than expected.
Still, it would’ve been nice to have had the likes of Auston Matthews and Jack Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau out there.