TORONTO – Brad Marchand capped a wild comeback with a late short-handed goal, and Canada claimed a second straight World Cup title with a 2-1 victory over Team Europe on Thursday.
Marchand beat Jaroslav Halak with 43 seconds left in regulation, sending the Canadians to a sweep over Europe in the best-of-three final. Marchand’s goal came just over two minutes after Boston Bruins teammate Patrice Bergeron tied the game 1-1 on Canada’s fifth power play of the game.
It was the 16th straight best-on-best victory for the Canadians, propped up by a stellar 32-save effort from Carey Price.
Zdeno Chara managed the lone goal for Europe, which led from the early minutes of the first period until Bergeron finally evened up the score at 1-1 with less than three minutes to go in the final period.
Canada was on the verge of being shutout in a best-on-best format for the first time since losing 2-0 to Russia in the quarter-finals of the 2006 Olympics.
Out of sorts for much of their Game 1 win over Europe, Canada came sluggish again on Thursday night.
They didn’t get their first shot on Halak until almost six minutes had passed. Twenty-seven seconds after that, the Europeans took the 1-0 lead when Chara dipped in from the point and beat Price.
It was just the third deficit Canada faced all tournament, and the longest lasting by far. The Canadians trailed for 89 seconds against the U.S. and 72 seconds against Russia.
A group that rolled into the final looked much like it in the series opener, imprecise at times and unable to impose its will on Europe. Canadian defenders mismanaged pucks at the blue-line twice on a first-period power play, leading to dangerous short-handed rushes for the Europeans, both of which were stopped by Price.
The Canadians couldn’t put much pressure on the European defence, which swiftly moved pucks out of its own zone. That meant little to no sustained offensive pressure.
An early power play in the second seemed to give the host country something of a jolt. John Tavares had the best chance, ringing off a shot off the post with Halak exposed. Then, later in the period with the Jonathan Toews unit pressing, Drew Doughty stepped into a shot that was stopped by Halak. A Corey Perry wraparound followed, also blocked the Slovak goaltender.
Perry had six shots and 10 attempts on goal through two periods.
Building off his excellent 33-save outing in the opener, Price was sharp at the other end. He kept Canada’s deficit at one goal, making one of his best stops on Thomas Vanek crashing the front of the net.
Europe outshot Canada 15-13 in the second and 12-8 in the first. The Canadians had been outshot in three periods all tournament prior to that, including the opening period on Tuesday night.
A nervous crowd at the Air Canada Centre alternated between boos and cheers in the third frame, and the Canadian team on the ice looked nervous and edgy itself.
Searching for offence, Babcock shuffled his lines in the third period. He flipped Tavares and Steven Stamkos onto the sides of Toews, Logan Couture and Perry joining Ryan Getzlaf. The fourth line of Joe Thornton, Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly played sparingly.
Effective throughout the tournament, the trio of Sidney Crosby alongside Marchand and Bergeron continued to make things happen.
It took until less than three minutes remained in the third for Canada to get on the board. After Anze Kopitar was called for holding Perry, the Canadian power play finally came to life.
Brent Burns sent a shot from the right point that Bergeron managed to get a stick on, beating a previously perfect Halak. It was the fourth goal of the tournament for the 32-year-old.
Crosby, the tournament MVP, added his World Cup-leading 10th point with an assist on the play.
Canada was back on its heels just over a minute later with Doughty whistled for high-sticking. After Roman Josi rung a shot off the post, an open Marian Hossa was stopped by Price.
It was 20 seconds or so later that Toews entered the offensive zone, sucked in a slew of European defenders before dropping to Marchand, whose shot beat Halak for the game-winner.
It was his tournament-leading fifth goal of the tournament.
Canada remains unbeaten in the best-on-best format since the preliminary round of the 2010 Olympics.