By Steve Keating
TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada scored two late goals to claim a nervy 2-1 win over Team Europe and complete a series sweep of the World Cup of Hockey final on Thursday, confirming their status as the sport’s undisputed superpower.
With the game heading towards overtime, Brad Marchand scored a shorthanded goal with 44 seconds left, about two minutes after Patrice Bergeron had tied the game on the powerplay, as Canada took the best-of-three series 2-0.
“We didn’t want it to go to a Game Three, anything can happen in one game,” said Canadian captain and tournament MVP Sidney Crosby. “The last 10 minutes we were really pressing, we had some really good chances and regardless of getting the powerplay or not I thought we had one good push left in us.
“To get that powerplay goal I think was definitely big but then we were shorthanded there for the last two minutes and you’re thinking let’s just get this to overtime and see what we can do and (Marchand) comes up with a big goal.”
It was the 16th straight win by Canada in best-on-best international competition and adds the World Cup to gold medal triumphs at the last two Winter Olympics.
Team Europe, a ragtag collection of players from small hockey-playing nations, defied the odds by reaching the final ahead of traditional powers Russia, Sweden, Finland and the Czech Republic but had no answers for the Canadian juggernaut that rolled through the tournament unbeaten.
Crosby accepted the World Cup trophy designed by famed architect Frank Gehry and hoisted it above his head as team members took turns parading it around the arena to the approval of a roaring home crowd.
“It’s not easy, everyone wants to play for Team Canada but there are a lot of expectations,” said Crosby, who led the tournament with 10 points. “You play here and we understand that but it is an unbelievable atmosphere to play here at home. To be able to win it is special for a lot of reasons.
“I think everyone understands that playing for Team Canada you are willing to do what it takes to win and just to see the team come together and the different challenges you have to overcome to win.”
Facing elimination, Team Europe came out playing with predictable desperation and were rewarded with an early goal from Slovakia’s Zdeno Chara as they dominated the opening period by outshooting Canada 12-8.
With Canada’s high powered attack stonewalled by a brilliant Slovak netminder Jaroslav Halak it looked as if Chara’s goal might be all they would need to extend the series.
But Canada would not be denied, Bergeron redirecting a Brent Burns shot past a screened Halak to tie the game before Marchand sealed the win when he unleashed a blistering shot from just inside the blueline to cap a breathtaking comeback.
“When you come into a tournament like this you are just trying to take everything in, this is the biggest stage in the world right now,” said Marchand, who led Canada with five goals. “It’s been an incredible experience, a dream come true.”
Halak and Canadian netminder Carey Price both turned in brilliant efforts matching each other save for save. Price, however, was just a bit better surrendering one goal on 33 shots while Halak stopped 32 of the 34 shots.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)