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Americans out of Olympic men's hockey playoff after shootout stunner

The U.S. was eliminated in a shootout in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive Olympics lacking NHL players.

BEIJING, China — The United States is out of the men's hockey tournament at the Olympics in stunning fashion after blowing a late lead. Marek Hrivik scored with 43.7 seconds left in regulation, Peter Cehlarik had the winner and Slovakia beat the U.S. 3-2 in a shootout Wednesday to knock the top-seeded Americans out in the quarterfinals. 

The U.S. led for almost half the game before the tying goal when Slovakia pulled its goaltender for an extra attacker to play 6-on-5.

"I’m just sad it’s over," U.S. captain Andy Miele said. “Our team battled hard. Sometimes those bounces happen in hockey. Unfortunate it was on our side. We’re just going to wish Slovakia the best of luck the rest of the tournament here.”

The U.S. had gotten accustomed to playing tight games in the tournament, beating Canada by two goals and Germany by one. But blown coverage in front allowed Hrivik to knock a loose puck past goalie Strauss Mann, who was impressive until that point and finished with 34 saves.

Only Cehlarik scored in the shootout, while the U.S. went 0 for 5 against Patrik Rybar. Cehlarik told teammate Juraj Slafkovsky on the bench that he would go forehand, backhand and score and made good on that in the fourth round of the shootout.

“I believed in it,” Cehlarik said. “I believe in this team.”

Coming up empty on four power plays, including three in the third period and more than a minute of 5-on-3 time, came back to bite the Americans. Matty Beniers hit the post on one of the best scoring chances the U.S. had in the third, but the team could not crack Rybar, who was playing a second consecutive day in net for Slovakia.

“We get the 5-on-3 and really that was the game-changer,” U.S. coach David Quinn said. “When you’ve got a 5-on-3 in that scenario and you don’t capitalize on it, you’re giving that other team a lot of hope and they capitalized.”

Slafkovsky scored the first goal for Slovakia, the 17-year-old forward’s tournament-leading fifth. He is expected to be a top-10 pick in the NHL draft this summer.

The U.S. goals by Nick Abruzzese and Sam Hentges came on textbook passing plays. Abruzzese's goal 7:26 after Slafkovsky scored tied it, and Hentges put the U.S. ahead near the midway point of the second period.

Top-line winger Brian O'Neill was lost for the rest of the game in the second, when he took a puck off his left foot.

“That shows a lot: He sacrificed his body for the better of the team, and that’s Brian,” Miele said. “It was tough to lose him, but if you’re going to lose someone sacrificing for the team like that, that’s the best way to go.”

Defenseman Jake Sanderson missed a second consecutive game with an undisclosed injury.

Slovakia, coached by longtime NHL assistant Craig Ramsay, will face either Finland, the Russians, Sweden, Canada or Denmark in the semifinals Friday. Slovakia is in the semifinals at the Olympics for the first time since 2010.

"It's amazing that it's happening," Slafkovsky said. “I can’t wait to play in the semifinals.”

The U.S. was eliminated in a shootout in the quarterfinals for the second consecutive Olympics lacking NHL players. The 2018 team was knocked out by the Czech Republic.

“It’s a tough pill to swallow, it really is, just losing in any fashion,” Quinn said. “No disrespect to Slovakia or anybody, we just felt so good about the direction of our team and the way we were playing."

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