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Team Canada

Carey Price big when he has to be

Goalie gives Team Canada time to get on track in Game 1 of World Cup final

by Arpon Basu @ArponBasu / Senior Managing Editor

TORONTO -- Carey Price had to think about it for a second or two, but it didn't take long for him to remember exactly what had happened.

After giving Team Canada a chance to find its game and eventually win 3-1 against Team Europe in Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey 2016 final at Air Canada Centre on Tuesday, Price was asked about perhaps the only mistake he made in goal all night.

And it wasn't even on the goal he allowed.

Early in the second period, Team Europe forward Tobias Rieder took what appeared to be a harmless looking shot from the top of the faceoff circle, and Price kicked the rebound out into the slot, allowing Frans Nielsen to get a more dangerous shot on goal.

The play stood out because of how seldom it has happened to Price in this tournament, or even over his career wearing a Canada uniform.

Video: EUR@CAN, Gm1: Price denies a series of shots in 2nd

And Price remembered it.

"I try to leave the puck in the good areas," Price said, "but it doesn't always work out that way."

Not always, no. But almost, in Price's case.

Price has been excellent throughout the World Cup, but Team Canada's play in front of him made it so his performance became an afterthought.

Who talks about the goalie when a team scores goals seemingly at will?

Price is Team Canada's ultimate insurance policy. Like any insurance policy, you hope to never need it, but you are happy it's there when you do.

Team Canada needed it Tuesday. And Price was there.

"We needed him early tonight," Team Canada coach Mike Babcock said. "I think they were outshooting us at one point significantly, and we've been a team that's … all over the other team, and we weren't that tonight."

Team Europe was ahead in shots on goal 9-3 at 6:37 of the first period, and the pressure began on the opening shift. Anze Kopitar took a shot from a sharp angle that Price stopped, but the rebound went to Tomas Tatar, who got two quality chances off it and ultimately forced Team Canada forward Brad Marchand to take a cross-checking penalty 21 seconds into the game.

Price made a save on the only shot Team Europe got on the power play, and Marchand stepped out of the penalty box and scored to put Team Canada ahead 1-0 on its first shot on goal of the game.

"They had some really good chances in around the net," Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby said. "They were throwing a lot at the net and he was poised in there, just really steady in there and made those saves when he needed to, and just allowed us to kind of take advantage of the chances that we had."

Team Canada never gets that lead if Price isn't sharp right off the opening faceoff.

But he was, and his teammates weren't.

Video: Crosby, Bergeron pace Team Canada in 3-1 win

"I was ready to go," Price said when asked if he found it difficult to get into the game. "I kind of like getting into the action right away. I feel like getting a couple of touches in early is always great. I find it a little bit harder when you don't see it for, you know, eight minutes. It's a little bit harder.

"That's why I play goal, to get those opportunities."

Price has won 15 consecutive starts wearing a Canada jersey at three different tournaments: four at the World Cup, five at the 2014 Sochi Olympics and six at the 2007 IIHF World Junior Championships. He has a 1.05 goals-against average and .961 save percentage in those 15 starts, which span a part of his career when his play significantly dipped with the Montreal Canadiens.

Because of the inconsistency Price showed during that time, there was some doubt as to whether he even would play at the Sochi Olympics, let alone excel the way he did. Those Games vaulted Price into the upper echelon of NHL stardom, a status he cemented by winning the Hart and Vezina trophies in 2014-15.

But the World Cup has given Price the opportunity to show everyone that the knee injury that ended his 2015-16 season on Nov. 25 has left no residual effects; that he is the same goaltender who was near perfect in Sochi and who was the backbone of the Canadiens, the goaltender who erases his teammates' mistakes.

"He makes a big save at the right time," Marchand said. "He always seems to do that."

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