For the entire World Cup of Hockey, few gave Team Europe a shot to make any kind of noise, but with three minutes to go, the Europeans were on the verge of doing something no other team in the tournament could do: beat Canada.
But then, all the sudden, they weren’t.
Canada snatched cinderella’s glass slipper and completely crushed it in the final three minutes of Game 2 in the World Cup of Hockey Finals. Patrice Bergeron scored the game’s tying goal on the power play with 2:53 left in regulation. Just a little over two minutes later, with 44 seconds to go, his Boston Bruins teammate, Brad Marchand, scored a shorthanded goal to lift Canada to a 2-1 victory.
The win completed the perfect tournament for the Canadians, who defeated Team Europe 2-0 in the Finals and went 6-0 excluding the preliminary games.
Team Canada won Game 1 of the best-of-three final 3-1 on Tuesday.
Canadian captain Sidney Crosby was named tournament MVP. He had three goals and 10 points in the six meaningful games, including an assist on Bergeron’s game-tying goal.
Marchand also had an MVP-type performance in the tournament. He had five goals and eight points in the six games, including four goals and five points in the finals and semifinals.
It was a crushing loss for a team that was so close to forcing Game 3 on Saturday, but overall, Team Europe has to be pleased with how they played, particularly Thursday. They gave Canada everything it could handle and put a genuine scare into them unlike any other squad in the tournament.
After Tuesday’s loss, we talked about how the European defense would have to continue to be active in the offensive zone in order for Europe to win Game 2. Early on, it was, as defenseman Zdeno Chara scored in the first period.
Jumping up 1-0 early was so crucial to the European game plan too because. with a lead, it forced Canada to chase the game a bit. It let Europe get to its defensive game, and it made Canada, and the ruckus home crowd, a little anxious.
Perhaps that’s why John Tavares missed a wide open net in the first few minutes of the second period. The puck found his stick when he was right in front to the left of Jaroslav Halak, who was on the other side of the cage, but Tavares’ shot hit the post and bounced away. Holding a stick too tightly can make an all-world talent like Tavares miss a shot like that.
Fortunately for him, Canada’s top line saved the day again. Bergeron beautifully deflected a shot from the point past Halak on the man advantage. There was absolutely nothing Halak could do.
The Slovenian goaltender might want the Marchand goal back, but it was also just an impressive play on Team Canada’s part. Jonathan Toews skated hard from right to left, drawing two defenders. That created space in the slot for Marchand, who cleanly beat Halak to his stick side.
Although the final three minutes were a nightmare, Halak had a great tournament and can’t pin the loss on himself. He allowed just 13 goals in six games and posted a .941 save percentage. Against everyone but Canada, he had a .962 save percentage, but it’s not like he played poorly versus the Canadians either. Halak recorded a healthy.924 save percentage against the heavy favorites.
That most certainly should be enough for him to earn back the New York Islanders net to start the regular season.
Unfortunately for Europe, Carey Price was just a tad bit better than Halak on Thursday. European forward Marian Hossa had a chance to give his team the lead back with 1:09 left in regulation, but Price stopped him from point blank range.
The other thing Europe had to do to win this game besides activate the defense was score on the power play. Hossa nearly did, but instead, it was the European man advantage that gave up the game-winning goal. Europe didn’t score a power-play goal in the entire tournament.
Canada, who has now won 16 straight games in best-on-best competition, was the best overall team in the tournament and deserved to win, but boy, did Europe give them a run for its money. Despite the crushing loss, that’s something hockey fans should remember for a long time.
But on Thursday, it was Canada who shocked the world … not Team Europe.