Crosby line leads Canada to Game 1 win over Europe
Marchand, Bergeron, Stamkos score; Price stops 32 shots
Dominance it was not, but Team Canada still did enough to capture Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey final.
Carey Price made 32 saves and the top line of Sidney Crosby, Brad Marchand, and Patrice Bergeron chipped in with two more goals as Canada edged Europe 3-1 on Tuesday night.
Steven Stamkos scored the eventual game-winner, with Marchand and Bergeron also finding the back of the net.
Earlier in the day Canadian head coach Mike Babcock said the World Cup, for all its good, could not replace the Olympics "where the heat's on you and you've got to deliver."
"Let's not get confused," he said.
And indeed, the opener lacked the intensity, emotion or inherent tension that the race for a medal at the Olympics offers. The game had more of the feel of an exhibition match than the final of a top international tournament. There was no pushing and shoving between whistles or apparent verbal sniping between the two benches.
Canada didn't dominate like it had previously.
Stamkos scored 1st of World Cup
Some of that was resistance from Europe, a concept team that's unlikely to return for future World Cups. They offered what's become a standard fight in the first game of perhaps their own only final appearance, limiting Canada's chances while generating more than a few of their own.
It was testament to the overwhelming talent disparity between the two teams that Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead after the first.
The Europeans were actually the better team through 20 minutes. They outshot the Canadians 13-9, sustained lengthy stints in the offensive zone and even had the best early chance of the game, a Tomas Tatar shot in tight that was denied by Price.
But Canada capitalized on its chances as a team with this much firepower often does.
Marchand finished off a rush with Bergeron 2:33 into the first, his fourth goal of the tournament. Crosby got the play going, notching the first of his two assists on the night.
Stamkos added his first goal of the tournament about 11 minutes later.
The 26-year-old, who hadn't scored in the four previous games or in the pre-tournament slate, was the beneficiary of a wily play by Ryan Getzlaf, the big centre picking an onrushing Zdeno Chara at centre-ice. Getzlaf then faked a shot as he skated down the left side of the ice before feeding Stamkos, who promptly beat Jaroslav Halak for the 2-0 lead.
The Canadians were playing at home, but didn't seem to get much of an emotional boost in the Toronto Maple Leafs' arena, where there were a lot of empty seats and suites.
Lot of empty seats/boxes at World Cup of Hockey final. Not a great look. <a href="https://t.co/l8YuNRQdw2">pic.twitter.com/l8YuNRQdw2</a>—@mirtle
The Canadians weren't sharp with the puck at times and the game itself lacked much testiness, a side-effect surely of playing a team with whom there is no history.
Even an off-period, though, was more than enough for an early two-goal lead.
The Europeans, pesky throughout the tournament, were rewarded for their fight exactly seven minutes into the second. Dennis Seidenberg sent a shot from the sideboards through a maze of traffic, the deflected attempt found by Tatar, who slipped a shot past Price.
Babcock described Europe as a "well-organized" group ahead of the final, that responsible style propelling them to an unlikely berth in the final. They managed to limit the Canadians prime chances through 40 minutes, though Canada did manage 17 shots on goal in the middle frame.
Often though the Canadians just looked off and sometimes sloppy. On one power play in the second they iced the puck and then surrendered a breakaway to defenceman Andrej Sekera, his attempt stopped by Price.
The game was never in doubt though and Canada increased their lead back to two midway through the third on Bergeron's third goal of the tournament. Crosby started the play, shifting back and forth with the puck behind the European net before dishing in front to Bergeron for Canada's third marker.
It was the second assist of the night for the Canadian captain and tournament-leading ninth point.
Canada can clinch the World Cup trophy with a victory on Thursday night.