TORONTO -- Ralph Krueger laid out his game plan earlier in the day, with confidence in his voice and a challenge for Team Europe's opponent.
"We're here to play, and we're here to play to win, not to wait to win," the coach said. "And you'll feel that tonight."
Team Canada did, indeed, feel that.
Team Europe played to win Tuesday, outplaying the consensus more-talented team for much of the game. It was its most aggressive, most dangerous, most pressuring, and still couldn't win, losing to Team Canada 3-1 at Air Canada Centre in Game 1 of the best-of-3 World Cup of Hockey 2016 final.
"This could be arguably our best game so far in this tournament," Team Europe captain Anze Kopitar said.
But its best was not quite good enough, not against goalie Carey Price and Team Canada.
The game plan was to keep Team Canada to the outside, especially its dangerous top line of Brad Marchand, Sidney Crosby and Patrice Bergeron, which scored twice. Team Europe wanted to be less passive offensively, as it was in a 4-1 loss to Team Canada in the preliminary round. It tried to cycle the puck more, to spend more time in the offensive zone, to, as Krueger said, play to win.
Video: Postgame reaction from Game 1 of the World Cup final
Yet it wasn't perfect. Against Team Canada, near-perfection is required.
"I think we did just what we talked about," Team Europe forward Frans Nielsen said. "It's so tough playing against them because you just can't make any turnovers. When you look at their team, it's all all-stars offensively.
"If they have one weakness on the forwards, except for Bergeron and [Jonathan] Toews maybe, it's playing defense. We've got to make them play defense. But it's such a fine line because we want to get down there but we can't turn it over. But I think that's the only way to beat them. You've got to try to play with them."
Team Europe was active, pushing the puck and the play. A little more than seven minutes into the game, it was leading 9-3 in shots on goal. It also was down 1-0, courtesy of a Marchand goal at 2:33, 12 seconds after a penalty (to Marchand) expired.
That was the first goal. The second, from Steven Stamkos, came at 13:20, after Ryan Getzlaf stripped Zdeno Chara in the neutral zone and dished the puck to a waiting Stamkos at the side of the net.
Video: EUR@CAN, Gm1: Stamkos nets Getzlaf's dish after steal
"I think if you cut the goals out of the videos, there's an even-chance opportunity here for us with [Team] Canada, which we're proud of that effort, and the creation of it, but we're very frustrated, of course, with what and how we gave up the goals we did," Krueger said. "Just a little bit too much risk at the wrong times and the power of [Team] Canada is that, to take opportunities and jam them into the net."
Team Canada managed to take advantage of those opportunities, even though there were few to that point, something Team Europe couldn't quite do, though it came back to make it 2-1 when Tomas Tatar scored at 7:00 of the second period. But it couldn't quite convert again, even as it kept getting close. And it opened just a few too many doors for a team that can open its own.
But was this the best that any opponent has played Team Canada in this tournament?
"I would say so," Team Canada defenseman Drew Doughty said. "They definitely gave us the biggest scare, in a way."
Video: EUR@CAN, Gm1: Tatar puts Team Europe on the board
Team Europe was there to play, there to win. It did not wait. It also did not win.
Though there is no time for moral victories, not with an elimination game facing Team Europe on Thursday in Game 2 of the final, it will take what it can out of a game when it was often the better team. It will take confidence. It will take fuel.
Before the game, Team Europe talked about how it had nothing to lose, no expectations. It wasn't supposed to be here. The pressure was off. The expectations were nil. It was all on Team Canada.
Which was why, when it came so close, it prompted Krueger to say, "We're very angry right now, which is a good thing."
Team Europe knew it had an opportunity, one that might not come again. But given what it did in Game 1, it might.
"The mindset is not that you want to have a close game," Team Europe defenseman Mark Streit said. "The mindset is you want to win the game. You know we don't really care what people think or fans think. We know what we can do. We know what kind of potential we have on our team."