TORONTO -- Team Russia coach Oleg Znarok was asked why Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby and his line with Patrice Bergeron and Brad Marchand had so much success in a 5-3 win against his team in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 semifinal on Saturday.
Znarok's initial response was to laugh because the question, after watching what Crosby's line had done to his team, might have appeared somewhat ridiculous to him.
"Because they're incredible players," Znarok said, once he was finished laughing.
Crosby scored the first goal of the game for the third time in the tournament and then, after Team Russia came back to take a 2-1 lead in the second period and stun the crowd at Air Canada Centre, set up Marchand for the tying goal late in the second and the go-ahead goal at 1:16 of the third period.
When Team Russia had hope to start the game, Crosby took it away.
When Team Russia started hoping again, Crosby took it away. Again.
"He's able to impose his will or change the game at any time," Team Canada defenseman Shea Weber. "He's one of those guys that's got the ability to switch momentum. He switched the momentum after they scored and went up 2-1, and got the momentum back at the end of the second so we could regroup and come back in with a little bit more confidence."
Video: RUS@CAN: Marchand buries Crosby's pass in front
The combination of Crosby, Bergeron and Marchand has been together from Day One of Team Canada training camp on Sept. 5, and has in fact been together in coach Mike Babcock's mind far longer than that. It has been repeated almost every day since then, but the ability of not only that line, but basically every forward line to stay together this long has played a huge role in Team Canada reaching the World Cup final.
Crosby leads the World Cup with seven points in four games, Marchand is second with five, and Bergeron is tied for third with four.
"You're always hoping that each line's going to be good," Babcock said. "In a lot of these tournaments, I've had way more change than in this tournament. This tournament's been, I don't even know what happened here, but, no, usually it's not like that. It's a work in progress and you grind and you grind and you try to make it better.
"We have had success this far, but let's not get carried away; we now have an opportunity to have success, we're going to be measured on what happens next."
Way back on Sept. 5, a point in time Babcock said feels to him like it was four months ago, the fact Marchand was on that line with Crosby and Bergeron was considered big news. Even though Marchand scored more goals (37) in the NHL last season than anyone else on Team Canada, and even though he has played on Bergeron's line with the Boston Bruins for years, his inclusion on that line was considered somewhat surprising.
There were other candidates with more pedigree who Babcock could have selected, like John Tavares or Joe Thornton, but the choice to put Marchand there looks pretty smart now and, frankly, somewhat obvious.
"I'm not surprised, I've been playing with him for six or seven years now," Bergeron said. "He's obviously a great hockey player, but he's also a player who shows up in the biggest games and he scores goals in the biggest moments. So no surprise as far as I'm concerned, and he deserves credit for the way he's playing."
The biggest moments.
Video: RUS@CAN: Marchand nets second goal of the game
Team Canada could have entered the third period trailing 2-1 were it not for Marchand burying his first goal of the game at 17:36 of the second. It was a brilliant pass from Crosby, but Marchand still had to put it in the back of the net.
About 55 seconds into the third period of a 2-2 game, Bergeron set up Marchand for a glorious chance in front of the net, but Team Russia goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made what was probably the best of his 42 saves in the game, robbing Marchand with his glove.
About 20 seconds later, Marchand took a pass from Crosby just inside the Team Russia blue line, moved into a better shooting position in the slot, waited for a lane to present itself, and beat Bobrovsky for the go-ahead goal.
If the heavy lifting on his first goal largely was done by Crosby, the go-ahead goal was all Marchand.
But Marchand was more than willing to give the credit to his center and fellow Nova Scotian for changing the tide of the game on the first one.
"I think that's one thing that makes him such a good player, is his determination and he always comes up big in the big games," Marchand said. "You see plays like that, that's where the leadership comes in. And when you're able to lead at this level, a group of leaders … that just shows how special of a player he is.
"He created that whole goal and, ultimately, that did lead to turning the game around."