Slovakia may have a tendency to start off slow in this tournament, but three straight third period comebacks means that Slovakia will stay unbeaten thanks to their 3-1 victory today.
Slovenia would be the first to strike. Over a year after Slovenia beat Slovakia at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the lower ranked squad got a goal after Aleš Krancj took a shot from the point, only to have Jan Muršak tip it past Jan Laco for the 1-0 goal. Muršak, a former prospect with the Detroit Red Wings organization, is considered to be the best player not named Anze Kopitar on the Slovenians, putting up solid point totals in the KHL with CSKA Moskva this year.
With Luka Gracnar out day-to-day, Robert Kristian headed into the game as the undisputed starting goalie for the Slovenians. Kristian has always been one of the better goalies at this tournament, but with Gracnar continuing to surprise everybody with his stellar play in Austrian league action, there was always the chance that he could take over. Kristian had a good first period, stopping the likes of Tomas Jurco and Marian Gaborik in an eight save shutout period to start off the game, keeping his team in the lead.
The Slovenians looked hungrier, trying to expose the slow Slovak defense for goals throughout the second. Of course, as it was the trend on Tuesday, scoring proved to be almost impossible. Laco’s play in the first 40 minutes surely didn’t help that, making 18 saves against the likes or Urbas and Kopitar.
Slovenia’s trips to the box would finally catch up to them in the third, meaning that more than one game today would feature at least two goals. Andrej Mezaros scored both Slovkian goals in a 2-1 win a few days ago over Belarus, so a rocket from the blueline with 13 minutes left just made sense.
Slovakia has never had a lead in the first 40 minutes of play, but their third periods have seen a ton of excitement for the many fans in attendance. In fact, Marian Gaborik, who had been so-so throughout the tournament, would score two late in the game. First, he was able to fire one past Kristian with 5:44 left in the game, giving the team the goal they needed to take the victory.
The goal was a controversial one, however, as the marker came as a result of a Aleš Mušič penalty for knocking the net off. On the ensuing power-play, which also saw a headshot against Kopitar that left him down for a minute, Gaborik would score on the slap shot to score the goal. For good measure, though, Gaborik would add an empty netter with 1.6 seconds left, finishing off Slovakia’s third straight victory to stay unbeaten at the 2015 World Championships.
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