Slovenia provides test as U.S. tries to win Group A

Saturday, 02.15.2014 / 4:16 PM / News
By Brian Hunter  - NHL.com Staff Writer

SLOVENIA vs. UNITED STATES

When: Sunday, 7:30 a.m. ET (NBCSN)

Where: Shayba Arena

What's at stake: While the United States is in the driver's seat in Group A with five points (one regulation win, one shootout win), Russia (four points) and Slovenia (three points) remain alive as well. The U.S. can seal its automatic bid to the quarterfinals with a regulation win, while Slovenia would need a regulation win and some help from Slovakia against Russia in a game also scheduled to face off at 7:30 a.m. (USA, SNET) over at Bolshoy Ice Dome.

Slovenia: In the opening days of the men's hockey tournament, Latvia, Austria, Norway and Slovenia all made bids to pull off a major upset and came up short. Slovenia trailed Russia by just a goal in the third period Thursday before going on to a 5-2 defeat. Instead of letting how close they came get them down, the Slovenians came back with a vengeance Saturday and made history in the process.

Led by goaltender Robert Kristan, who matched Jaroslav Halak of Slovakia with 19 saves through two periods, Slovenia kept the game scoreless into the third and broke through for its first lead of the 2014 Sochi Olympics when Roc Ticar scored on a power play. Captain Tomas Razingar and Los Angeles Kings forward Anze Kopitar added to the lead and even a late goal that spoiled Kristan's shutout bid couldn't dampen his brilliant 27-save performance in a 3-1 win.

"It's amazing, but there's not much time to celebrate," Kristan told the IIHF website. "We've got a tough game against the U.S. to come."

United States: Make no mistake, coach Dan Bylsma will have his troops prepared and there will be no way the U.S. overlooks Slovenia. However, it's going to be difficult for the Americans to match the intensity level from less than 24 hours earlier when they survived an eight-round shootout and recorded a dramatic 3-2 win against Russia, putting themselves in control of their destiny in group play.

Bylsma started Kings goalie Jonathan Quick for a second consecutive game Saturday and Quick didn't disappoint. After a relatively easy 22-save effort in a 7-1 win against Slovakia on Thursday, he had to make 29 stops -- many difficult and under duress -- through 60 minutes of regulation and a five-minute overtime Saturday. Quick then stopped five of eight shootout attempts, including the final two he faced.

If the game Sunday needs the penalty-shot tiebreaker to decide it, safe to say St. Louis Blues forward T.J. Oshie will be in Bylsma's plans. He scored on the Americans' first attempt against Russia and then went 3-for-5 over the final five rounds (IIHF rules allow the same shooter to repeat as many times as desired after the third round). The U.S. power play also clicked twice on Saturday, with Anaheim Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler and San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski scoring.

"It was awesome," Pavelski said. "Whatever type of game you want to explain it as, it was that."

What's next: If either country wins Group A or ends up as the top second-place finisher among the three groups, it won't have to play again until Wednesday. Four teams gain those automatic berths, while the other eight will be in action Tuesday in the qualification playoff round.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 p - BOS 82 54 19 9 261 177 117
2 y - PIT 82 51 24 7 249 207 109
3 x - TBL 82 46 27 9 240 215 101
4 x - MTL 82 46 28 8 215 204 100
5 x - NYR 82 45 31 6 218 193 96
6 x - PHI 82 42 30 10 236 235 94
7 x - CBJ 82 43 32 7 231 216 93
8 x - DET 82 39 28 15 222 230 93
9 WSH 82 38 30 14 235 240 90
10 NJD 82 35 29 18 197 208 88
11 OTT 82 37 31 14 236 265 88
12 TOR 82 38 36 8 231 256 84
13 CAR 82 36 35 11 207 230 83
14 NYI 82 34 37 11 225 267 79
15 FLA 82 29 45 8 196 268 66
16 BUF 82 21 51 10 157 248 52

STATS

2013-2014 PLAYOFFS
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Johnson 1 1 1 0 2
D. MacKenzie 1 1 0 0 1
M. Letestu 1 1 0 1 1
B. Dubinsky 1 0 1 1 1
B. Jenner 1 0 1 -1 1
F. Tyutin 1 0 0 -1 0
J. Wisniewski 1 0 0 0 0
B. Comeau 1 0 0 -1 0
N. Nikitin 1 0 0 0 0
J. Skille 1 0 0 -1 0
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
S. Bobrovsky 0 1 0 .875 4.07
 
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