TORONTO – It wasn’t pretty, and it definitely wouldn’t win any style points, but it was enough to win the game.
Canada wasn’t at its best Tuesday night, but it found the offence it needed and got great goaltending from Carey Price (Anahim Lake, B.C./Montreal, NHL) to defeat Team Europe 3-1 in Game 1 of the best-of-three final series of the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Brad Marchand (Hammonds Plains, N.S./Boston, NHL), with his team-leading fourth goal, Steven Stamkos (Markham, Ont./Tampa Bay, NHL) and Patrice Bergeron (Ancienne-Lorette, Que./Boston, NHL) all scored for Canada.
Marchand added an assist. Sidney Crosby (Cole Harbour, N.S./Pittsburgh, NHL) had two helpers and now has a tournament-best nine points.
Price finished with 32 saves.
Tomas Tatar scored for Team Europe. Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves in the loss.
Team Europe seemed to get the quick start it needed to overcome its underdog status. Right off the opening face-off, it crashed the Canadian crease and drew a cross-checking penalty on Marchand.
But no sooner had Canada killed off the penalty then Crosby sprung Bergeron behind the defence; Bergeron sent a short pass across to Marchand, who made it 1-0 only 12 seconds after being allowed back on the ice.
Later in the period Ryan Getzlaf (Regina, Sask./Anaheim, NHL) picked Zdeno Chara’s pocket along the side boards. On the ensuing rush he fed Stamkos at the side of the net for an easy tap in.
Team Europe dominated the offensive chances early in the second and was rewarded for their assertive play seven minutes in, when Tatar put home a rebound in front.
The crowd grew restless with Canada’s listless play as the period wore on. An offensive push thanks to a late power play opportunity and some momentum built from that allowed the team to finally gain an advantage in shots on net, 17-11 for the period and 26-24 to that point in the game.
Canada came out stronger to start the third period. Less than two minutes in, Stamkos picked off Halak’s pass behind the net and fed John Tavares (Mississauga, Ont./New York Islanders, NHL) out front. Moments later Ryan O’Reilly (Clinton, Ont./Buffalo, NHL) jumped on the ice undetected and got off an unmarked shot in the slot, but hit Halak squarely in the chest.
Crosby found Bergeron out front midway through the final period to finally give Canada some breathing room.
Head coach Mike Babcock on Canada not being as sharp as in previous games:
“Well, obviously we got the two points, I thought we had a good third. In the first, I thought that they were better than us for large stretches of the game at times, they executed and played fast. I didn’t think we moved the puck out of our zone at all tonight. We had guys out there that didn’t talk to one another so actually didn’t play fast and then turned the puck over on entry, so they looked quicker than they were and we probably looked slower than we were. In the end, obviously, we’ve got lots of room to get better, but we came here today to find a way to win a game. We won a game, so now tomorrow we’ve got to get better again so we can take this step.”
Did You Know…
· Team Canada is appearing in the World Cup of Hockey/Canada Cup Final for the eighth time in as many such tournaments with wins in 1976, 1984, 1987, 1991 and 2004.
· Canada ranks first among clubs participating in World Cup of Hockey 2016 with a combined 14 Stanley Cup victories. Team Europe places second in that category with a collective eight wins.
· Captain Sidney Crosby extended his win-streak to 24 games while in a Team Canada jersey, dating back to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
· Carey Price is now 15-0-0 in IIHF World Championship, Olympic Winter Games, and World Cup of Hockey play.
Canada can clinch the World Cup with a win on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).