SOCHI, Russia — Anze Kopitar scored the third of three goals in a six-minute stretch of the third period Saturday to give Slovenia a surprising 3-1 victory over usually steady Slovakia in its first Olympic hockey tournament.
After two evenly played periods, the Slovenes were stronger and seemed more inspired in the third.
Slovenia’s Rok Ticar broke a scoreless tie 3:23 into the final period. Teammate Tomaz Razingar scored midway through the third, and Kopitar, the only NHL player on his team, scored 23 seconds later.
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Slovenian goaltender Robert Kristan stopped the first 27 shots he faced before Tomas Jurco scored with 17.8 seconds left in the game for Slovakia.
Slovakia and St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak made 28 saves.
Slovenia (1-1) qualified by beating Belarus, Ukraine and Denmark and was competitive for two-plus periods against host Russian before losing 5-2 on Thursday. It will play the U.S. on Sunday.
Kopitar is the Los Angeles Kings’ perennial scoring leader and one of the world’s best centers. He is being coached by his father, Matjaz, at the Olympics.
The 30-year-old Kristan was the star of Slovenia’s biggest win in last year’s qualification tournament, making 37 saves in a 2-1 victory over favored Denmark.
Razingar, the 34-year-old Slovene captain, played junior hockey in Ontario and two seasons in the North American minor leagues. He carried Slovenia’s flag in the opening ceremony.
Slovakia, with 12 NHL players including Halak and Chicago Blackhawks star Marian Hossa, finished fourth and fifth at the last two Olympics.
The Slovaks (0-2) were routed by the U.S. in their Sochi opener and will face Russia on Sunday perhaps without a key player.
Tomas Kopecky left Saturday’s game after getting hit in the head in the first period and didn’t return. The two-time Olympian and Florida Panthers forward 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 bench before going toward the dressing room. He did not return to the ice or his bench in the second period after playing four shifts in the first.