SOCHI, Russia (AP) — Slovenia is not satisfied with just showing up to play hockey at the Olympics for the first time. Its players want to win.
They made that very clear Saturday.
Anze Kopitar scored the third of three goals in a six-minute stretch of the third period for Slovenia's surprising 3-1 victory over usually steady Slovakia.
"Everybody thought we were going to just have fun here, but the boys really responded well," said Matjaz Kopitar, who is the Slovenian coach and Anze's father. "They want to be a competitive team, and we were rewarded."
Slovenia (1-1) earned a spot in the Sochi Games by beating Belarus, Ukraine and Denmark in last year's qualification tournament.
It was quite a feat for a hockey team ranked 17th in the world from a nation with fewer than 2 million people, seven hockey rinks and only one professional team.
"I'm kinda speechless," said Anze Kopitar. "So happy. This is going to stick with Slovenia for a long time."
If the Slovaks (0-2) don't suddenly start playing better, they won't be sticking around in the tournament much longer.
Slovakia, with 12 NHL players including St. Louis Blues goaltender Jaroslav Halak and Chicago Blackhawks star Marian Hossa, finished fourth and fifth at the last two Olympics.
The Slovaks lost to a team with only one NHL player, Anze Kopitar of the Los Angeles Kings.
"It's hard to lose a game like this," Hossa acknowledged.
The Slovaks were routed by the U.S. in their Sochi opener and 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.
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