2016 World Cup of Hockey: Canada defeats Europe 3-1 in Game 1 of World Cup of Hockey final
Patrice Bergeron (37) hugs Brad Marchand while teammates Alex Pietrangelo (27) and Sidney Crosby look on after Bergeron scored to make it 3-1 for Canada in Game 1 of their best-of-three World Cup of Hockey final on Sept. 27, 2016. (NHL Twitter account)
TORONTO — Even with a poor performance beyond the first line and in net, it was business as usual for Team Canada as they defeated Team Europe 3-1 in Game 1 of the World Cup best-of-three finals.
In front of an Air Canada Centre crowd that seemed far from sold out, the undefeated Canadians came out with arguably their worst game of the tournament and still managed to come out with a victory against the Europeans, who may have played their best game of the tournament on Tuesday night.
Canada’s top line of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron and captain Sidney Crosby had another dominant performance, with Crosby recording two assists and the Bruin teammates finishing with a goal and an assist each.
The offense started after Marchand finished serving a cross-checking penalty he took 21 seconds into the game and joined a rush with Bergeron.
Taking a last second feed from Bergeron, Marchand buried his tournament-leading fourth goal of the tournament at 2:33 of the 1st period. Captain Sidney Crosby recorded the second assist, and Canada had a 1-0 lead.
For most of the first 20 minutes, the underdog Europeans held their own against the powerhouse Canadians, outshooting the host-nation 13-9 in the 1st period.
But while booed mercilessly by the Toronto home crowd, blue liner Zdeno Chara gets stripped of the puck by Ryan Getzlaf. After he entered the zone and faked a wind-up, he found Steven Stamkos on the other side of the European net for an easy tap in past goalie Jaroslav Halak at the 13:20 mark.
It was Stamkos’ first goal of the tournament after going scoreless on 13 shots in the previous four games.
In the next frame, Europe continued their game plan and generated scoring chances on Canadian netminder Carey Price.
Team Europe finally got on the board after Thomas Tatar scored 7:00 into the 2nd period. Banking in a rebound from a Dennis Seidenberg point shot, Tatar’s third of the tournament cut the lead to one.
Jump ahead to the 9:24 mark of the 3rd period when a lurking Bergeron in the slot takes a Crosby-backhand pass from behind the net, firing it off Halak and in the net to make it 3-1 Canada.
Team Europe tried staging a comeback but were unable to get anything past Price, who stopped 32 of 33 European shots and kept the rag-tag group of nation-less players (at least in the eyes of the NHL) from making any historic comeback through the night.
Halak stopped 35 of 38 Canadian shots, and continues to prove his worth among the game’s best goaltenders.
Team Canada finished with 53.2 per cent even strength possession, compared to Team Europe with 46.8 per cent. (Graph via HockeyStats.ca)
One thing that stood out was the amount of empty seats around the rink inside the Air Canada Centre. Having covered games here and attending many more as a fan, I’ve never seen the building as empty for a hockey game, let alone the finals in a best-on-best international tournament.
Canada takes a 1-0 series lead and can be crowned World Cup Champions with a Game 2 win on Thursday. Game time is 8 p.m. ET.