Marcel Hirscher of Austria extended his perfect start to 2012 by winning a World Cup slalom Sunday to pad his lead in the overall standings.

He won for the third time in four days and became the first man to win the first three races of the year since Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark in 1978.

"It's an incredible feeling," Hirscher said. "I can't imagine or explain what's happening right now."

He mastered rapidly worsening conditions on the Kuonisbaergli slope to beat defending overall champion Ivica Kostelic of Croatia by 0.27 seconds for a two-run time of one minute 58.66 seconds. Italy's Stefano Gross was third.

Mike Janyk of Whistler, B.C., who recently returned from an ankle injury, was seventh, while Brad Spence of Calgary was 17th.

"I made mistakes but I fought like hell," said Janyk, who punched the air in celebration after his second run. "That was one of the best runs I've done in a long time. … the way I attacked and fought through."

Janyk was 18th after the first run and decided to change his approach for the second.

"On the second run I knew I had to keep my skis on the ground a little more," Janyk said. "It was a fight."

There was bad news for Janyk's teammate Julien Cousineau. The skier from Lachute, Que., suffered a knee injury on the first run, and will travel back to Canada for further tests.

Bode Miller, who won the Adelboden slalom in 2002, skied out near the end of his first run. Teammate Ted Ligety dropped one place to fourth in the overall standings after he skied out midway through a rough second run.

Hirscher also won Thursday's night slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, and the classic Adelboden giant slalom on Saturday.

"I take so many risks in every race and you should ski out 50 per cent of the time like that," he said. "I'm feeling great and I'm not tired during the races."

Gross trailed Hirscher by 0.99 in third. Another Italian, Cristian Deville, had shared the lead with Hirscher after the first run but had a poor second run and crossed with the ninth best time before he was disqualified for a gate violation.

Kostelic moved up to second overall, but Hirscher's 100 World Cup points for the win put him 230 ahead. He is now looking to put together the same kind of good run in January that propelled the Croatian to the title last year.

"Your self-confidence grows and it's just that you are riding on this wave of success," said Kostelic, who won seven events last January. "This is a mental thing and I think Marcel is in it right now."

Kostelic kept the lead in the discipline standings by 25 points over Hirscher, with the pair having combined to win the first five of the scheduled 11 slalom races this season.

Hirscher has led after the first run in all three of his victories in 2012, but trailed Kostelic by 0.03 at the next-to-last intermediate time Sunday. He found extra speed down the steep final section despite racing through snow and thickening cloud cover.

"It was all or nothing. We were at the limit of it being impossible to race on this course," said Hirscher, whose eighth career World Cup victory reversed the result of a year ago, when Kostelic edged him for victory.

Ligety was 21st in the first leg.

"I skied pretty bad the whole way and never found a rhythm," he said. "It's a tough schedule coming straight here from Zagreb without the chance to get some training in."

Kasper held his ninth-place finish from the morning and wound up 2.28 behind Hirscher. Teammate Will Brandenburg placed 22nd, 3.92 back.

Miller stayed sixth overall and can expect to collect points next weekend at nearby Wengen, where he traditionally excels.

Hirscher is sticking with his plan to skip speed events, including Wengen's super-combined scheduled for Friday, to focus only on technical gate races.

Kostelic, who competes in all five Alpine events, said Hirscher could still win the crystal globe for the season title despite getting points in only two disciplines.

"I said, maybe two years ago, that Marcel was a contender for the overall if he dominates in the technical races, and that is what he is doing right now," Kostelic said. "The only question is whether he can dominate until the end of the season."