Canada downed Team Europe 3-1, and can win the tournament Thursday night.
Photo by Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
The first game of the World Cup of Hockey's best-of-three final went down on Tuesday night, with tournament favourite Team Canada beating eight-nation Team Europe 3-1 to take a 1-0 series lead.
Heading into the matchup, the general consensus was that Canada was the heavy favourite to win, assuming it would dominate the series and it would take some sort of miracle (named Jaroslav Halak) for Team Europe to stand a chance. Even Thomas Vanek, the lone Austrian on Team Europe's roster, called beating Team Canada twice "impossible."
But on the first shift of the game, Team Europe reminded everyone watching that it got to the tournament final for a reason, putting pressure on Carey Price, resulting in an early powerplay. Unfortunately for the Europeans, despite owning the early part of the game, Canada's skill advantage took over when Brad Marchand came out of the penalty box and scored off a beautiful feed from Patrice Bergeron, putting Canada up 1-0 on its first shot of the game.
Midway into the first period, Canada added another as Ryan Getzlaf forced a turnover in the neutral zone before dishing a tape-to-tape pass to give Steven Stamkos an easy tap in for his first goal of the tournament.
Despite outshooting Canada 13-9 in the first period, Team Europe found itself down 2-0 due to a strong showing from Price and the skilled Canadians finishing off chances. In the second frame, however, Team Europe turned up the jets, outplaying the Canadians and leading to a goal from Tomas Tatar seven minutes into the period.
For the first time in the tournament, Team Europe managed to take the life out of the Air Canada Centre and keep the game within striking distance, heading into the third period down 2-1.
In the third, however, Canada's captain and the world's best player took over and made sure to put the closely-contested game away. Sidney Crosby already had an assist on the Marchand goal, and nine minutes into the third he helped Team Canada find some much-needed insurance when he danced behind the net before feeding a nifty backhand pass to Bergeron for his line's second goal of the game, putting it away for Canada.
The 3-1 score doesn't represent just how well Team Europe played, as it stuck to its system with smart and hard hockey that created plenty of good scoring chances. But the skill of the Canadians, especially Crosby and Price, came out when the team needed it most and was simply too much for the Europeans to overcome.
Halak was good, making 35 saves in the affair, but he will need to stand on his head for Team Europe to have a chance in the second game on Thursday night, when Canada can win the 2016 World Cup of Hockey tournament.
For more World Cup of Hockey stories, check out our full coverage here.