TORONTO – Jonathan Toews (Winnipeg, Man./Chicago, NHL) scored twice and Corey Crawford (Montreal, Que./Chicago, NHL) earned his first-ever international win as Canada beat Europe 4-1 to claim top spot in Group A at the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Toews picked up an assist as well on Wednesday night.
Sidney Crosby (Cole Harbour, N.S./Pittsburgh, NHL) and Logan Couture (London, Ont./San Jose, NHL) also scored, as Canada outshot Europe 46-20.
Crosby gave Canada an early lead, scoring only four minutes in against Europe, a team of players from eight different countries. When Jay Bouwmeester (Edmonton, Alta./St. Louis, NHL) shot wide from the point, Crosby took the rebound off the end boards and tucked the puck in the side of the net.
Canada hit its stride as the period played on. Only the stellar goaltending of Jaroslav Halak prevented more goals. With three minutes to go, he robbed Steven Stamkos (Markham, Ont./Tampa Bay, NHL) – standing only a step outside the blue paint – with a glove save. Two minutes later he stoned a wide-open Brad Marchand (Hammonds Plains, N.S./Boston, NHL) twice at the side of the net.
Off the ensuing face-off, though, Canada finally beat the European goaltender, with Toews deflecting in a shot from Matt Duchene (Haliburton, Ont./Colorado, NHL).
Europe enjoyed more time in the offensive zone to start the second period, but was unable to generate much on net as Canada quickly closed off the shooting lanes.
Applying a different approach, Marian Hossa drove toward the goal line, where his bad-angle shot eluded Crawford and cut Canada’s lead to one.
Toews restored the two-goal lead 10 minutes later when he kept the puck on a two-on-one.
Up to that point the period had been the team’s flattest in the tournament, but a second goal from Captain Serious got the subdued crowd inside the Air Canada Centre back out of their seats.
Late in the third period, with Marchand and Pierre-Édouard Bellemare sitting for off-setting minors, Couture pounced on a loose puck out front and roofed it for his first goal of the World Cup.
Mike Babcock (Saskatoon/Toronto, NHL), Team Canada’s head coach, on how he feels about the team heading into must-win game scenarios:
“[I feel] good. Let’s get ready and play. I think it’s what it’s all about. That’s why you get ready. That’s why you build the program, so that you think you’re prepared and ready to go. Our guys know what we want them to do, now we’ve got to do it, though. I think the best-of-the-best deliver when it matters. And to me in the end, that’s the measure of the coach, that’s the measure of the goalie, that’s the measure of the players, it’s the measure of scorers – what you do in the big moments. What I’ve found over time is if you just do your job, your simple job and everyone else does theirs, you have a lot of success together. That’s what we’re going to try and do.”
Crosby on Canada’s ticket to success internationally:
“When you play for Team Canada, [everybody] understands that their role may change, minutes may change, but ultimately it’s just about winning. Right away that helps; that goes a long way.
“You need to find different ways to win, and whether it’s goaltending or special teams or someone different stepping up and getting a big goal, I think that the depth that we have has allowed us to have success.”
World Cup of Hockey 2016 is a joint effort of the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association, in cooperation with the International Ice Hockey Federation. Eight teams — Team Canada, Team Czech Republic, Team Europe, Team Finland, Team North America, Team Russia, Team Sweden and Team USA — are competing in the two-week tournament, featuring more than 170 of the best players in the NHL. All tournament games are played at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Canada will face the second place finisher in Group B, either North America or Russia, in the semifinals on Saturday (7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT).