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Team Europe

Team Europe feels it can extend unexpected run

Will try to even best-of-3 final against Team Canada

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Throughout the World Cup of Hockey 2016, Team Europe has done well at staying in the moment.

Coach Ralph Krueger has said more than once, "Because we have no past and we have no future, we are really capable of being in the now."

That approach has served Team Europe well on its way to the World Cup final against Team Canada. But after losing 3-1 in Game 1 on Tuesday, the reality is this team might really have no future after Game 2 of the best-of-3 series on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, CBC, TVA, TVA Sports).

Another loss would mean the end of this unexpected run and, with the future format of the World Cup up in the air, possibly the end of Team Europe as an entity. The players, who come from eight countries, would prefer to extend their "now" to a deciding Game 3 on Saturday.

"A lot of guys in the room know this might be their only opportunity to even participate in this tournament, not only win it," center Frans Nielsen said Wednesday. "I definitely know that this Team Europe might not be back again, Denmark might not be in it, so this might be my only chance to win it and be a part of it. So, this is a big game for our guys."

Team Europe did a lot of good things in Game 1, controlling play much more than it did during its 4-1 loss to Team Canada in the preliminary round. But the mistakes it made proved costly against an opportunistic and talented Team Canada.

"I personally was pretty upset we lost," said left wing Tomas Tatar, who scored Team Europe's goal. "I'm not saying we should have won [Game 1], but we were pretty close to beating them, and I think it's going to give us a lift for next game."

In some ways, Team Europe pushed Team Canada more than any team has pushed it at the World Cup. Although Team Europe never led in the game and trailed 2-0 by the end of the first period, it caused problems for Team Canada by being more aggressive on the forecheck and generating sustained pressure in the offensive zone.

Other than at the end of games when it was sitting back protecting a lead, Team Canada hadn't experienced that much in the tournament.

"I just think we have to build on our game from yesterday," Krueger said. "Our defense was solid. We didn't have near the D-zone time that we had in the [preliminary round] game against Canada and we had a lot more offensive-zone clips. We have the luxury as coaches to watch the game again … and you really see a shift there from what we had in the preliminary round game to the playoff game [Tuesday].

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

Team Europe made Team Canada sweat by making it 2-1 on Tatar's goal in the second period and had a few chances to tie it, including a shorthanded breakaway by defenseman Andrej Sekera, but couldn't convert against goaltender Carey Price.

Although Team Canada played better in the third period and increased its lead with a goal from Patrice Bergeron, Team Europe came out of the game emboldened in its belief that it can win the series.

"We proved we can play," Tatar said. "We're going to be playing the same way the second game. We just showed they're human as well and we can beat them. It's tough to come back in a game when Canada's leading 2-0, but after the first goal, I think we had a few more chances to tie the game up, and it would be different for sure."

Team Europe knows its margin for error is slim. Its next mistake could cost it the series. But it vowed it would not go into Game 2 afraid.

"We're playing this game [Thursday] without any fear," Krueger said. "We're going to go head-on again. I thought we were eye to eye with Canada in a lot of situations [Tuesday] and we're proud of that, but that doesn't make us happy. We want to end up winning this game [Thursday]."

The players have had so much fun over the past two weeks, they are not ready for this to end.

No one expected them to get this far. Now, in this moment, they have a chance to prove their doubters wrong again and force a Game 3.

"You have to believe all the time," defenseman Zdeno Chara said. "What would be the purpose if you didn't believe in success? So you have to believe and you have to have the right approach, the right mindset. It's a best-of-3, so we really have to focus on our game [Thursday] and give it our all."

It's not in Team Europe's nature to consider the alternative.

"My focus is on winning the game [Thursday] and I don't put any thoughts to, 'What if we don't win?'" defenseman Christian Ehrhoff said. "We live in the moment, we focus on the now, and try to prepare as best as we can to face another good team [Thursday]."

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