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World Cup of Hockey

Team Europe feeling 'way better, way more confident'

Win against Team Sweden boosts spirits after losses in first two World Cup pretournament games

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- No team in the World Cup of Hockey 2016 has grown more in confidence in the past day than Team Europe.

A 6-2 victory against Team Sweden in Washington on Wednesday was Team Europe's first win in three pretournament games, but it marked a significant step forward for the collection of players from eight countries not Russia, Sweden, Finland or the Czech Republic.

"I do feel better and I think I'm not the only one," said Team Europe captain Anze Kopitar during World Cup Media Day at Air Canada Centre. "I think yesterday's game was a pretty big game for us."

Team Europe lost its first two pretournament games to Team North America by a combined score of 11-4.

"There's no secret to it; the first two games were not good at all," Kopitar said. "We took a big, big step in the right direction, just proved it to ourselves what type of hockey we have to play, that we have to be smart and we can beat good teams.

"That was big for us."

Video: Team Europe hoping to make noise in Group A

Kopitar said that 11 days into its preparations, Team Europe is on what he called a "normal" path, given its starting challenges of assembling a team of players from eight countries.

"I don't think anybody expected we were going to hit our stride right off the get-go," Kopitar said. "It's not realistic. I don't think anybody expected us to get smoked too, but even though the results weren't there, we felt we like the second and third periods (of a 7-4 loss Sunday) in Montreal were the type of hockey we needed to play and we were taking steps in the right direction.

"The result was the result of the first period (trailing 5-1). Not good. Then we were taking the right steps, and last night we confirmed it and it feels great."

Defenseman Roman Josi said Team Europe learned plenty facing Team North America, which is comprised of players 23 or younger from Canada and the United States.

"We were kind of all over the place and obviously that Team North America is a great team with a lot of skill and a lot of speed," Josi said. "They can pick you apart if you don't play your system well. That's kind of what happened to us.

"It takes some time to get adjusted and we did a way better job last night."

Video: SWE@EUR: Draisaitl tips in his second goal of game

A team that has no track record and has never existed before the Sept. 5 start to training camp now turns its attention to its World Cup opener against Team USA at Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Saturday (3:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, SN, TVA Sports).

Team Europe, Team USA, Team Czech Republic and Team Canada make up Group A.

"It was just important to get a win, 6-2 or 3-2, it didn't matter," Team Europe defenseman Mark Streit said. "To get a good feeling, that's the way we wanted to play, and we felt way better, way more confident.

"But you want to put that win into perspective. Those guys (Team Sweden) flew over from Europe and were probably a little bit tired. They went from the big rink to the small rink. We want to take it the right way. We know that was a step in the right direction, but I think as team we realize that on Saturday we need to take another step if we want to be successful against the United States."

Kopitar said that another level of play will be required come Saturday.

"We're going to have to play our very best, not just against the U.S. but against the Czechs and Canadians," he said. "It's a type of tournament where you have to play your very best, and it's such a short tournament, you have to be on your game early and often."

After Team Europe never trailed against Team Sweden, coach Ralph Krueger was optimistic about its progress.

"That second game after we were down 5-1 and being thrashed by the kids from North America was a defining moment for us as a group," he said. "We needed to come together very quickly to be able to form an identity. And in adversity, you can form identity."

Video: SWE@EUR: Kopitar seals win for Team Europe

Krueger said he will continue to dwell on a key point of focus for Team Europe.

"We've opened that door -- play for your country, play for your underdog nation that you never could challenge the big boys eye to eye," he said. "That's really brought this group together on a common purpose."

Team Europe general manager Miroslav Satan said that some team chemistry and cohesion is finally evident.

"I see (our game) improving game by game," Satan said. "I think more and more we are able to play as we want and what the coaching staff is asking from the players. As long as we see improvement game by game, I think we are fine.

"We knew at the beginning it was going to be a challenge to put together a team that never played together before. We are in the process of making this happen quickly."

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