It looked like Slovenia's game, almost the entire way, until Norway found a way back in, to reverse almost 24 years of Olympic losses with one shot.
Nevermind their recent Olympic history, Norway won a huge game on Tuesday night.
Alexander Bonsaksen plunged an overtime wrister into absolute chaos in front of the Slovenia net to lift Norway 2-1 over the stunned Slovenes.
Slovenia’s starter Gasper Kroselj faced the Bonsaksen shot without a stick, following a Norwegian rush to the net that caused a yard sale, and Jan Urbas to fatefully glove the puck into the high slot.
“The puck came out bouncing, so I didn't want to shoot a one-timer. I just wanted to make sure it didn't bounce over my stick,” said Bonsaksen.
“I just focused on getting it past the first guy who was trying to block it. Luckily, it went in.”
It is Norway’s first win at the Olympics since February 24, 1994 (3-1 win over Austria). They had previously lost 11-straight games going back to Lillehammer, although Norway did not qualify a men’s team from 1998 - 2006.
“We talked about our losing streak in the room before the third period and wanted to do something historic here. This is the first time Norway is in the quarter-finals,” said Bonsaksen.
“It's been 24 years since we won a game at the Olympics. That's what we talked about, and I'm really happy we did it. It feels amazing.”
Bonsaksen’s goal 3:06 into the OT period was a reversal of fortunes for the defenceman, who took a poorly-timed interference penalty with 11 seconds left in regulation time.
But the Slovenes didn’t capitalize.
In fact, they also blew an earlier power play in the final minutes, thwarted by a pair of excellent saves from Norwegian goaltender Lars Haugen, two of his 33 saves in the game, with Ken Andre Olimb in the box for hooking.
Norway will now face the Olympic Athletes from Russia in a quarter-final on Wednesday.
“Russia is a great team. They have a lot of good players, so they're the favourites. But we'll battle hard and give them a tough game,” said Jonas Holos, Norway’s captain.
The Slovenes took a 1-0 lead at 6:38 of the first period with a low shot from Jan Urbas, for his second goal of the tournament. His captain, Jan Mursak, set it up, good for his team-leading sixth point.
In many spots of the opening frame, the Slovenes posted a pace the Norwegians couldn’t match.
With about six minutes left in the period, Mursak carried a neutral zone feed from linemate Miha Verlic and raced in on a partial breakaway, only to chip the puck into the body of a sprawling Haugen.
Slovenia outshot Norway 16-9 in the opening period.
The Slovenes earned themselves a play-off qualification game against previously win-less Norway with a resilient preliminary round.
Their body of work included a comeback overtime win against the Americans and a shootout triumph over Slovakia. That put them sixth overall following the preliminary round.
Norway pushed the Germans to a shootout but lost, and fell by four-goal margins to veritable contenders Sweden and Finland.
The Slovenes also controlled much of the scoreless second period, firing nine shots toward Haugen, while Norway managed only four shots on Kroselj in the Slovenia net.
Norway would tie the game 1-1 3:06 into the third period with an excellent finish by Tommy Kristiansen. Martin Roymark streamed a long, beautiful saucer pass onto Kristiansen’s tape, which he neatly slide far side on Kroselj.
“We're happy how we played in this tournament. We became better known in the hockey world because it's the Olympics,” said Kroselj, who made 24 saves.
“We showed ourselves in a good light, even today when we lost. I wish Norway all the best.”