Last week, if you told me that Team Europe would be playing in the World Cup of Hockey Finals, I’d probably have you committed to the loony bin. Yet here we are, looking at a Canada vs Europe Finals a day after Europe beat Team Sweden, 3-2, in an over-time thriller. Jarsolav Halak turned away 37 of 39 shots and Tomas Tatar scored just 3:43 into the extra period to send the underdog Europeans to the final set of games.
The first period had no scoring and not a whole lot of chances, but it put each teams goalies in the spotlight. Halak and Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist each had some great saves throughout the opening frame, and this was mostly a defensive period.
Things picked up in the middle period though as Swedens Nicklas Backstrom opening the scoring just 2:31 in. While hugging the left post, Halak made an initial save off of a quick shot from the Swedes but couldn’t control the rebound and Backstrom, hanging out in front of the slot, sent the puck home to put his team up 1-0. They wouldn’t take that lead into the second intermission though, as Marian Gaborik JUST got enough of a beautiful pass from Christian Ehrhoff, who was skating behind the net. The pass went in-between the legs of a Swede and Gabby directed barely though Lundqvists five-hole. Both countries had one tally on the board after two.
The third period was where the real excitement was though. Just eight seconds after the puck was dropped, Tomas Tatar caught a pass from a fellow European from the boards after a Sweden turnover. He came into the offensive zone on a 1-on-3 and took a wrist shot from above the faceoff circles. Lundqvist made the save but fell and the rebound popped out of his glove. Tatar sped by his defender and backhanded the puck right by a defenseless Hank, giving Europe a 2-1 lead. From there Sweden took the game over for the most part. They were pummeling Halak with shots but he stood tall for most of the period. With under five minutes remaining in regulation, things were starting to heat up for Sweden and with 4:32 left, an Erik Karlsson slapshot from the right point tied this game back up. It appeared that the two players battling in front of the net screened Halak, allowing the puck to whiz past his far side. The score was still 2-2 after two and this game was going into sudden death overtime.
Europe didn’t mess around in the extra period. Less than four minutes in, they took advantage of some poor communication between the Swedes goalie and defense after a European dump in and scored. Mats Zuccarello beat a Swedish defender to the puck and threw it across the ice to Tomas Tatar. Tatar was skating near the right post and, after having his first shot saved by Lundqvists left pad, netted home his second of the night before a defender could get the puck. It was Tatars second goal of the game.
Team Europe will face Team Canada in the best-of-three finals on September 27 at 7 P.M. CT.