Amer­i­cans waste 2- 0 lead in sur­pris­ing OT de­feat

Chicago Sun-Times - - WINTER OLYMPICS - BY KEVIN ALLEN USA To­day Fol­low me on Twit­ter @ ByKev­inAllen.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — U. S. men’s hockey coach Tony Granato’s mis­sion now is to pre­vent the dev­as­ta­tion of one loss from cre­at­ing an­other.

He made that clear after Slove­nia stunned the United States by com­ing from be­hind to win 3- 2 on a goal 38 se­conds into over­time by for­mer Red Wings player Jan Mur­sak. It was Mur­sak who tied the score with 1: 37 left in reg­u­la­tion.

‘‘[ If ] you drag this out and think about it for the next 36 hours, we’re not go­ing to be ready to play in a cou­ple of days,’’ Granato said. ‘‘ This one’s over and done with. And we’ve got to start fig­ur­ing out how to get the en­ergy we need to be ready for the next game.’’

This was the kind of loss that gnaws at play­ers and coaches. The United States seemed to be in con­trol, hold­ing a 2- 0 lead head­ing into the third pe­riod. Granato called the first 40 min­utes ‘‘ great hockey.’’

Then, in­ex­pli­ca­bly, the United States al­lowed Slove­nia to be­come dan­ger­ous in the of­fen­sive zone.

‘‘ I thought our en­ergy in the third wasn’t great,’’ Granato said. ‘‘ Twenty- four guys play­ing their first Olympic game — the hype, the long day — you use a lot of en­ergy. It could’ve been a lit­tle fa­tigue set in men­tally be­cause of the way that the day was. But no ex­cuses. They were the better team in the third.’’

The U. S. play­ers echoed Granato’s sen­ti­ments. They liked how they played for two- thirds of the game and hated how they per­formed in the third pe­riod.

‘‘ We started turn­ing the puck over in our zone, and they were get­ting chances that led to mo­men­tum for them,’’ U. S. goalie Ryan Zapol­ski said.

After Slove­nia scored its first goal at 5: 49 of the third, ‘‘ We were kind of on our heels,’’ Zapol­ski said.

‘‘ I thought we could have been a lit­tle more self­ish in get­ting pucks to the net and shoot­ing a lit­tle bit more,’’ said the United States’ Brian O’Neill, who scored a goal and as­sisted on a goal by Jor­dan Green­way.

The United States has only 36 hours to scrub away its prob­lems be­fore fac­ing Slo­vakia on Fri­day. The Slo­vaks up­set Rus­sia on Wed­nes­day.

Slove­nia qual­i­fied for the Olympics for the first time in 2014 and showed then that it could be com­pet­i­tive, fin­ish­ing sev­enth. But this time Slove­nia did it with­out Kings star Anze Ko­pi­tar, its best player.

‘‘ When we were younger, we never thought we were go­ing to play in the Olympic Games,’’ Mur­sak said. ‘‘ There is re­ally no pres­sure on us, no big ex­pec­ta­tions.’’

But there is con­sid­er­able pres­sure now on the United States. All eyes will be on the play­ers to see how they re­spond to the ma­jor loss.

‘‘ Tour­na­ments are about get­ting better each and ev­ery game and learn­ing from what hap­pened,’’ Granato said. ‘‘ I think it’s more the mind­set of re­al­iz­ing it’s go­ing to take 60 min­utes to close out any team in a tour­na­ment like this.’’

Jan Mur­sak of Slove­nia ( up­per right) cel­e­brates after scor­ing the win­ning goal in over­time against the United States in an Olympic hockey opener in Gangneung, South Korea. U. S. coach Tony Granato ( inset) was un­happy with the third pe­riod.


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