Kukla's Korner Hockey
by George Malik on 02/15/14 at 05:28 AM ET
It's 5:31 AM and I'm sitting in disbelief, having watched a very solid Slovakian team lay an absolute egg in Sochi--and the Slovenians play wonderful, fantastic hockey en route to a 3-1 win, earned after forty minutes of scoreless hockey and moribund Slovakian showings against a plucky, speedy team, which gave the crazy Slovenian fans at the Bolshoy Ice Dome all sorts of reasons to cheer
For Red Wings fans, watching Tomas Tatar and Tomas Jurco play dominant hockey is fine and all, but Tatar and Jurco were by far the best players on team that was made mincemeat by a line of Anze Kopitar (1 goal, 5 shots, and Slovenia's only NHL representative) and current KHL'er Jan Mursak, and at the other end of the ice, Robert Kristan stopped 27 of 28 shots--Jurco's shutout-spoiler came with only 18 seconds left in regulation--while Zdeno Chara looked all alone on defense and Jaroslav Halak was just as shaky as St. Louis Blues fans feared he'd be at the Olympics.
The Slovakians never seemed to recover after Tomas Kopecky left the game in the 3rd period thanks to an inadvertent elbow to the head, as the AP's Larry Lage noted...
Slovakia forward Tomas Kopecky has left an Olympic hockey game against Slovenia with an injury.
Kopecky got hit in the head in the first period Saturday.
The two-time Olympian was standing near the opposing team's net when Slovenia defenseman Sabahudin Kovacevic landed his left elbow on Kopecky's head to clear him out of the way.
Kopecky was evaluated on the team's bench before going toward the dressing room. He did not return to the ice or his team's bench in the second period after he had four shifts in the first.
ESPN has a box score up already, the IIHF has Kopitar's stats, Chara playing 24:04, and if you're a Wings fan, Tatar took 3 shots and finished at -1 in 14:43 and Jurco had a goal and 5 shots (leading the team) in 14:04 via a PDF file.
USA Today's Kevin Allen also penned a brief recap:
Slovenia became the surprise of the men's hockey tournament Saturday by posting a 3-1 win against Slovakia for its first Olympic win ever. The country only has one NHL player, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings, and he scored one of Slovenia's goals. Goalie Robert Kristan, who plays his pro hockey in Slovakia, beat a Slovak team that boasts 12 NHL players.
Tomas Jurco of the Detroit Red Wings ruined Kristan's shutout by scoring with 18 seconds left.
Slovenia's next game is against the USA on Sunday. Depending upon what happens between the Americans and Russia, the Slovenia-USA matchup could be important in the standings.
The Slovenia team is coached by Matjaz Kopitar, who is Anze's father.
In its opener, Slovenia played sharply against Russia before falling 5-2. The Russians led only 3-2 heading into the third period.
Ranked 18th in the world, Slovenia had to defeat Denmark, Ukraine and Belarus to qualify for the tournament.
Slovakia fell to 0-2 and has been outscored 10-2 in the tournament.
According to the IIHF, the 0-and-2 Slovaks (they also lost 6-1 to the U.S. on Thursday) will still play in Tuesday's quarterfinals, even if they lose to Russia tomorrow (at 7:30 AM EST on USA), but at this point, the U.S-Slovenia game (at the same time on NBCSN) might be more compelling viewing, and it's looking incredibly likely that the Slovaks will get knocked out by whomever they play, while the Slovenians, who actually gave the Russians one hell of a scare before losing 5-2 on Thursday, may be lining up as giant-killers.
Pete Blackburn on Twitter posted some fine .gifs from the game, and I'm posting them as highlights are a pain in the ass to find online thanks to TSN and the CBC's geoblocking of clips and NBC's middling efforts in highlighting non-U.S. games:
And this was the death blow:
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