John Tavares is a champion. And Jaroslav Halak is going to be seeing shorthanded goals in his sleep for a while.
In the span of a two-plus minutes, Patrice Bergeron scored on a deft deflection and Brad Marchand (again) scored shorthanded and, just like that, rag tag Team Europe’s run was over with a 2-1 loss to Canada in Game 2 of the World Cup of Hockey Finals on Thursday night.
Canada’s victory extends its undefeated streak in best-on-best international hockey to 16 games. The boys from up north haven’t lost since they dropped a round robin game to Team USA at the 2010 Olympics. They didn’t drop a game in this entire tournament, even though they were far from their best in the two games of the finals.
Sidney Crosby was named MVP because the sponsors like him more then Marchand, who finished with a tournament high five goals.
Team Europe came five minutes from beating Team Canada and forcing a Game 3 on Saturday night. Europe had outplayed Canada thoroughly for the first two periods, and Halak had made several spectacular saves including stopping one Sidney Crosby shot with his head in the second, and another by making a sick, stupid, last second split save with his toes in the waning minutes of the third.
But Europe’s energy and structure faded as Canada turned up the heat, and a bad penalty by Anze Kopitar with about two and a half minutes to go set Canada up to tie it. Brent Burns’ point shot was tipped in the slot by Bergeron and into the far side of the net.
Then, when gifted their own power play, Team Europe allowed Jonathan Toews to break into its zone shorthanded. He kept the puck, cut across the crease and dropped it back to Marchand, who sent a wrist shot past Halak’s glove hand with 44 seconds left.
Europe had one more chance, with Tomas Tatar getting a point blank shot on Carey Price that was stopped. Price was just as good as Halak and kept Europe from adding to the one goal lead they got from Zdeno Chara in the first period.
Tavares was once again an active offensive force and finished with a goal and four assists in the tournament, but for a while it looked like he would be the goat for Canada. Down 1-0 in the second, and with Canada finally getting some pressure, Tavares looked at a wide open net with Halak shaded to the right and forcefully, accurately hit the dang post.
No one was probably more relieved in that post-victory pile than Tavares was. As for Halak... yeah:
But he has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of, having been absolutely lights out for all three weeks of the tournament. Europe isn’t in the finals without him, with Philipp Grubauer and Islanders teammate Thomas Greiss only playing in the practice games. First Halak will get some well-earned rest, then return to the Islanders healthy, tested and ready for the season. And with Tavares on his side.
And we will return to the comfortable confines of NBC Sports and the caveman comedy stylings of Mike Milbury, Jeremy Roenick and Pierre McGuire, who has probably been watching the entirety of the World Cup on TV and telling his dog which junior team every player played for.
Looking forward to the next time ESPN pays attention to the NHL -- September, 2020— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) September 30, 2016