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5 Keys: Team Canada vs. Team Europe, Game 2

Limiting turnovers, net-front presence crucial in potential championship clincher

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / Columnist

TORONTO -- Team Canada and Team Europe play Game 2 of the best-of-3 final of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 at Air Canada Centre on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports). Team Canada defeated Team Europe 3-1 in Game 1 on Tuesday and can win the championship with a victory.

Here are 5 keys to the game:



Team Canada won Game 1 despite playing its worst game of the tournament. Team Europe lost despite playing its best.

"We played good," Team Europe forward Thomas Vanek said after the morning skate Thursday. "Against them, good is …"

He laughed.

"Not good," he continued. "You've got to be perfect. We made a few mistakes. You make mistakes against that team, you'll lose."

Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said his players were "very angry" after Game 1. They have to play angry in Game 2, not discouraged that their best wasn't good enough, and they now have to win back-to-back games against a team that has won 15 straight in best-on-best tournaments.

"We felt the calm in the room," Krueger said, "but there is a really nice bite and a nice edge and intensity in the group through these two days."



Krueger said the coaches ended up with 74 video clips of things Team Europe could have done better in Game 1, but they concentrated on "one single thing."

"If we do that better," Krueger said, "we're going to be a better team tonight."

Krueger wouldn't reveal it, of course, but here's a guess: more traffic in front.

Team Europe is 0-for-15 on the power play in the tournament; Team Canada is 15-for-15 on the penalty kill. Team Europe probably isn't going to beat Team Canada goaltender Carey Price with a clean shot. Its best chance is a dirty goal or a fluky play.

"We've got to get in front of Price a little bit more," said Vanek, who once played with Price with the Montreal Canadiens. "I think he saw too many pucks. I mean, I played with Carey. If he sees the puck, he's going to stop all of them."

Video: EUR@CAN, Gm1: Price and Marchand stone early chances



Team Europe played a patient style earlier in the tournament and seemed to take Team Canada by surprise by playing more aggressively in Game 1. Team Europe came through the neutral zone with speed and Team Canada played into that with its defensemen backing off instead of keeping tight gaps.

Team Canada didn't move the puck out of its end and up the ice as well as usual either. As a result, it spent more time defending than usual.

Another problem for Team Canada: turnovers. Team Canada was uncharacteristically careless with the puck. How often do you see a veteran center like Ryan Getzlaf try a no-look drop pass at the offensive blue line to nobody?

Team Canada started correcting its mistakes late in the second period and into the third period of Game 1. It needs to continue that into Game 2.

"You do the things you do that allow you to have success," coach Mike Babcock said. "You don't worry about the outcome; you worry about the process. If you do all the little things right, in the end, you get what you want."

 Video: EUR@CAN, Gm1: Tatar puts Team Europe on the board



Team Europe has tended to start strong in this tournament. Team Canada? Not so much. It just hasn't burned Team Canada yet.

In the preliminary round, Team Czech Republic hit a goal post before Team Canada scored first. Team USA scored first before Team Canada responded quickly with two goals to take the lead. Team Europe had a breakaway that Price denied before Team Canada scored first.

In the semifinals, Team Russia drew a penalty before Team Canada scored first.

In Game 1 of the final, Team Europe had a great scoring chance and drew a penalty on the first shift. Though Team Canada took a 2-0 lead 13:20 into the first period, Team Europe led in shots at that point 11-6.

"They're really known for the way they've started games," Team Canada forward John Tavares said. "I think that's obviously a focus every game, but maybe a little bit more emphasis tonight the way we started the other night and certainly throughout the tournament."



If Team Europe wins, it will have proven it can bring down Goliath, and the pressure will be on Team Canada to avoid a monumental upset in a one-game, anything-can-happen scenario Saturday (7 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports).

"We want to obviously get it done tonight," Tavares said. "Don't want to give them any life."

This is an opportunity for Team Canada not only to win a best-on-best tournament, but to go 6-0 in the World Cup, to extend the winning streak that includes gold medals at the 2010 Vancouver and 2014 Sochi Olympics, and to do it on home ice.

Team Canada needs to seize it.

"It's exciting as a player to kind of be in those situations," captain Sidney Crosby said. "It's not every day you get to be in those scenarios. I think with each one, you gain more of an appreciation for it and understand there's only a short window to be a hockey player in the NHL, and not everyone gets those type of opportunities. So when you do get them, I think you just try to make the most of them and try to have fun with it."

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