TORONTO — Team Europe wasn’t given much of a chance at the start of the World Cup of Hockey.
Round-robin wins over the United States and the Czech Republic got people’s attention and an overtime semifinal win over Sweden was a stunner. Europe nearly topped that Thursday but a late collapse proved costly as Canada came back for a 2-1 victory to sweep the best-of-three final.
“I’m really proud of this team because everybody pretty much thought we’d be the laughing joke in this tournament,” said Europe forward Anze Kopitar. “The way we came together and played and made it to the final, I think we gave Canada a pretty good run for it.
“Unfortunately we just came up a little bit short.”
Zdeno Chara silenced the Air Canada Centre crowd early in the first period when he beat Canada goalie Carey Price. Europe kept the pressure on but Canada found its rhythm late in the third with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand scoring for the host side.
“It’s extremely painful to see the final result but I feel nothing but pride (for) the way this group performed today,” said head coach Ralph Krueger.
A 50-1 longshot at the start of the tournament, Europe wasn’t intimidated by anyone.
That was the case again Thursday as the Europeans played like they had nothing to lose. Canada, meanwhile, seemed rather stiff and uninspired for the first two periods and part of the third.
With the graceful Kopitar and speedy Tomas Tatar leading the way, Europe pressed but couldn’t get that critical second goal on Price.
“They played smart all over the rink,” said Canadian forward Jonathan Toews. “They were skating and they were putting pucks on net and they were finding those second and third chances.”
Europe goaltender Jaroslav Halak made several brilliant stops before the Canadians eventually broke through.
The European side included players from France, Norway, Slovenia, Denmark, Austria, Slovakia, Germany and Switzerland. The first-time experiment for the World Cup was a hit among the players on the roster.
“The whole group, I’ve never seen anything like it,” said forward Frans Nielsen. “How 23 guys can get together in a short time and play so well together. I’m going to remember this tournament the rest of my life.”