Yup, the World Cup of Hockey isn’t over because Team North America’s been eliminated. There’s still some hockey left to be played.
Team Europe came into this game hoping to get another shot at beating Team Canada. The European squad was thoroughly beaten by Canada a few nights ago and now must go through a tough Team Sweden to get into the finals.
Meanwhile, the Swedes were hoping to get a chance at some vengeance of their own. After all, it was Team Canada that beat Team Sweden in the 2014 Sochi gold medal game. Standing in the way of the Swedes on their quest for revenge? This stingy Team Europe squad that has a knack for sticking around in every game they play.
Hoo boy, this game started with as much energy as an 8:00AM math lecture. The most exciting parts of the period came right after the puck dropped and right before the horn sounded. Mostly everything in between was pretty boring.
20 seconds in and Tomas Tatar had a nice drive to the net around Anton Stralman. The crash to the net nearly beat Henrik Lundqvist early but the puck stayed out. Gabriel Landeskog had a fast break soon after but Halak bested him with some help from his defense to keep the game scoreless.
The 1st period hardly had any sort of end-to-end action, both teams played good defense and denied a lot of pass attempts through the neutral zone. When either side did get the puck deep in the offensive zone, Halak and Lundqvist shut the door each time. Team Sweden definitely had more chances over the course of the period but the (other) Europeans got their licks in too.
Late in the period, the Swedes had a decent surge, nearly scoring on a wraparound attempt but the puck stayed out of the European net. And with about 40 seconds remaining an Anze Kopitar shot deflected off Victor Hedman’s skate but King Henrik somehow tracked the puck through the air and got in front of it.
After 1: Team Europe 0, Team Sweden 0.
2:50 into the second and the Swedes finally injected some life into this game with a Nicklas Backstrom goal off a rebound. Team Sweden won the faceoff, sent the the puck towards the net and were rewarded with a goal to go ahead in this one, 1-0.
The Europeans challenged this one, contending there was goalie interference. But upon further review the call stood.
I’d like to take a slight detour here and point out this cheeky play by Tomas Tatar that went unnoticed by the referees but not by those of us watching at home.
Tomas Tatar does not care for your stick placement, Nicklas Backstrom. pic.twitter.com/Ag9IynRFuA— Winging It In Motown (@wingingitmotown) September 25, 2016
Never change, Tomas.
A few minutes in and Team Europe got a chance to even the game up on the powerplay. The Europeans hadn’t scored a powerplay goal yet in the tournament and that fact didn’t change here or a few minutes later when Filip Forsberg took a seat for interference. Team Europe on the powerplay looked worse than the Tigers and Lions combined this afternoon. And if I’m really being honest, both teams looked more dangerous on the penalty kill than they did with the man advantage. No, seriously.
Mattias Ekholm and Marian Hossa each took roughing penalties with 5 minutes left and the action shifted to 4-on-4 where Team Europe barely slipped one past Lundqvist. Christian Ehrhoff took the puck down the right side, sent the puck towards the front of the net and Marian Gaborik got enough on it to sneak through Lundqvist’s pads and even the game back up.
40 minutes of hockey in the books and we’ve got ourselves a 1-1 game. Team Europe even pulled ahead in shots after 2 periods - who saw that coming?
Not even 20 seconds into the period and Tomas Tatar broke the tie. Tats shot the puck, scooped up the rebound that Lundqvist gave up and didn’t waste any time before burying the puck.
2-1 Europe thanks to Tatar pic.twitter.com/cuD2hbVUKd— Stephanie (@myregularface) September 25, 2016
This game just got turned on its head. I want to see Tatar make plays like that all year long. Great awareness at center ice to drive into the zone and follow his shot the whole way through. That’s the second time today he’s walked Stralman, in case you were wondering.
Team Sweden went back to work on the powerplay soon after but despite some good looks they weren’t able to get one past the Slovakian brick wall, Jaroslav Halak.
Thomas Vanek nearly scored on a breakaway with 10 minutes left. His shot glanced off Lundqvist and nearly dribbled into the net but Stralman knocked it away at the last second.
More stingy defense from Europe kept the Swedes off the scoresheet late in the game until an Erik Karlsson shot from the point found its way through traffic in front of Halak and into the net.
The Swedes had struggled to do anything on offense up to that point in the game, which is a testament to the stingy defense Europe played. Sweden might not have the forward corps of Canada, but they’re no slouches either. That’s a bit of an unfortunate goal for Europe to give up when they were so close to winning in regulation.
A late surge from Sweden nearly finished the Europeans off, Seidenberg had his pocket picked in front of Halak and the Swedes had another chance just after. But Halak kept Europe’s dreams alive with some great goaltending.
Going to overtime: all tied up at 2.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t 3-on-3 overtime but I’ll take more hockey over less hockey any day of the week.
A 2-on-1 for Sweden 3 minutes in nearly ended Europe’s tournament but the Europeans came right back down the ice at Team Sweden. Tatar got the puck in deep, Kopitar threw it around the boards from the right to left side. Mats Zuccarello found the puck and threw it back towards the front of the net where Tomas Tatar scored his 2nd of the game to beat Sweden! HOLY HOT SAUCE! He made that entire sequence happen and finished it off with the overtime winner!
Somehow Team Europe is going off to the finals against Team Canada in a best-of-3 series! This is going to be fun.
Also: I called it.
Tatar's gonna score to send Europe to the finals and it's going to be glorious.— Josh WIIM (@JoshLMVP) September 25, 2016
How'd the Wings Play?
Frans Nielsen had a quieter game than the previous ones in the tournament, but he was by no means a non-factor. He’s been great all tournament long and will be called upon heavily by Europe if they’re going to have any chance of taking a game off Canada in the finals.
Tomas Tatar was a beast in this game. He had four or so prime scoring chances and was rewarded with 2 goals, including the game winner in overtime. He was all over the place out there today and seemed dangerous all afternoon.
Thomas Vanek also had a strong game, he had a near-miss that Stralman just barely flung out of the crease and looked a lot better than he previously did in this tournament.