Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Lightning

Europe stuns Sweden to make World Cup of hockey final vs. Canada

TORONTO — Tomas Tatar scored his second goal of the game 3:43 into overtime, lifting Europe to a 3-2 win over Sweden in the World Cup of Hockey semifinals Sunday.

As Swedish goaltender Henrik Lundqvist lay on the ice with his head down, the Europeans huddled up in the right corner and bounced on their skates in jubilation.

Europe coach Ralph Krueger was thrilled for his players, but he wanted them to pump the breaks on the party.

"It's important we don't get giddy," Krueger said. "We want to give Canada and the world a really good final."

The team made up of players from eight nations that didn't have their own teams in the tournament will begin a best-of-three final series against Canada on Tuesday night.

Europe will be heavy underdogs against Canada, which has won two straight Olympic gold medals, the 2015 World Championship and 14 consecutive games in best-on-best tournaments.

The Europeans are okay with being counted out because they know they wouldn't even have an opportunity to compete against Canada for their individual countries.

"This is our chance to go far in a tournament like this," said forward Mats Zuccarello, who is from Norway and plays for the Rangers in the NHL. "I think we just cherish that moment and this chance."

Sweden's elimination sends defensemen Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, who assisted on Sweden's first goal, back to Tampa Bay for Lightning training camp.

Canada's Steven Stamkos is the only Lightning player left in the tournament.

Few, if anyone, expected the roster of players from the continent's non-traditional hockey powers to be among the final two in the event created by the NHL and the NHL Players Association.

Everybody, though, with at least a passing interest in the sport would recognize at least some of the players who started Sunday's game: Kings center Anze Kopitar (Slovenia), Blackhawks wing Marian Hossa (Slovakia) and Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (Slovakia).

"You put all those countries together, there's lots of good players there," Canadian and Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said.

And with Islanders goaltender Jaroslav Halak (Slovakia), the Europeans seem to have a shot to stun Canada.

Halak made 37 saves against Sweden.

"We wouldn't be here without fabulous goaltending," Krueger said.

The Rangers' Lundqvist, who helped the Swedes win gold at the 2006 Olympics, stopped 28 shots. He had a shot to prevent both of Tatar's goals.

On the winner, Lundqvist got caught out of position after trying to play a puck behind the net.

Zuccarello sent the puck from the left boards toward the net, and Tatar, a Red Wings center from Slovakia, stuffed it into the net from the right side.

On Tatar's go-ahead goal 12 seconds into the third period, Lundqvist failed to handle the puck cleanly with his glove, and it was costly.

Tatar scored off his own rebound after beating Stralman to a loose puck to make it 2-1.

"It handcuffed me a little bit," Lundqvist said.

Stralman redeemed himself midway through the third period by preventing the puck from crossing the goal line after Thomas Vanek's shot on a breakaway trickled past Lundqvist.

Sweden's Erik Karlsson made it 2-all with 4:32 left in regulation. The Senators defenseman shot the puck from just inside the blue line on the right side of the rink, and Predators defenseman Roman Josi (Switzerland) swiped at the puck with his stick and redirected it into his own net.

Both teams had the lead once before overtime and scored once to pull into a tie.

Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom of the Capitals broke a scoreless tie early in the second with a goal that stood after coach Ralph Krueger challenged that Backstrom interfered with Halak.

Europe tied the score at 1 late in the period on a goal by the Kings' Marian Gaborik (Slovakia).

Europe outshot the Swedes 15-9 in the second, and they will probably lament not being more aggressive offensively when they had the lead for about 14 minutes of the period, missing out on an opportunity for a rematch of the 2014 Olympic final against Canada.

"I don't think we were passive," Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg said.

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