GANGNEUNG, South Korea — Five practices were supposed to prepare the Americans for this, and they knew at the second intermission 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.
Brian O’Neill and Jordan Greenway, 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.
Competitive 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.
“We outskated them in the third, especially, and had more energy,” said Mursak. “After we scored that first goal, I think we really got that extra energy and the feeling that can score some more.”
The U.S. at least picked up a point by getting to overtime, while the Russians lost 3-2 in regulation to Slovakia. After each team’s first game, Slovakia is atop Group B, followed by Slovenia, the U.S. and the Russians.
“I’m proud of my guys,” Mursak said. “I’m proud of the team and hopefully we can start looking to the next game and surprise somebody else.”