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Team Europe

Tomas Tatar breaks through for Team Europe

Forward's first two goals at World Cup help earn trip to final

by Tim Campbell @NHLTim / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- It has surprised, shocked and over-delivered on its way to the final at the World Cup of Hockey 2016, but all you need to know about how Team Europe is doing it can be found in the process that created the overtime goal against Team Sweden on Sunday.

Tomas Tatar's second of the semifinal sealed it at 3:43 of overtime, and it was eye contact with teammate Mats Zuccarello that led each player to the right moves for a 3-2 win at Air Canada Centre.

Tatar, from Slovakia, caught the glance from Zuccarello, from Norway, showing that the international chemistry that has carried made-of-eight-countries Team Europe through the preliminary round, through the semifinal and into the best-of-3 final against Team Canada is more than just a concept.

The final begins here on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET; ESPN, CBC, TVA Sports).

Video: EUR@SWE: Tatar capitalizes for overtime winner

Tatar began the sequence by carrying the puck across Team Sweden's blue line along the right-wing boards. He managed to control the puck despite pressure from Filip Forsberg and Victor Hedman and moved it back slightly to Team Europe captain Anze Kopitar, who rimmed it around the offensive zone.

The puck got past Team Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist behind the net and Zuccarello, who was along the left-wing boards, acted quickly. He immediately sent the puck back across near the net, where Tatar was waiting to capitalize.

"I saw the puck was rimmed and [Zuccarello] gave me a look before he made the play and I thought I had more time," Tatar said. "I didn't want to one-touch it, so I received it and tried to put it in and it bounced off Henrik's pad and back to my skate and it went in.

"I knew he would throw the puck (near the net). He looked at me so I knew the pass will be coming. He's a really smart player, so I read it off him."

The feeling, Tatar said, was extraordinary.

Video: EUR@SWE: Mic'd up Bellemare celebrates OT winner

"It's amazing, especially after everybody's saying they didn't believe in us," he said. "We just continue this great story, we are breaking team after team and it's just awesome. We know how tough it's going to be, the final against Canada, but we are really fortunate to be here and we are enjoying ourselves."

The winning goal went to a quick video review, but it did not take long to determine that even though the puck hit Tatar's right skate, then Lundqvist's pad, then Tatar's left skate, there was no distinct kicking motion that put the puck into the net.

"It's always stressful when it's a review," Tatar said. "You never know which way it's going to go. I knew I didn't do the kicking motion, so I was hoping they would see that on the replay."

There had been many questions in recent days about Kopitar not having any goals so far in the World Cup.

Few had asked about Tatar, who did not have a point in the tournament prior to Sunday.

"There's so much happening within this group as far as players stepping up at different times to take us to victory," Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said. "Today, it was Tomas. He reacted to a game that he wasn't pleased with against Canada (a 4-1 loss on Wednesday) and he thought he could play better.

"It's been that way. There are so many side stories developing in my head right now. If I started speaking about names, I'd go on for an hour because of all of that. And Tomas stepping up with his spirit today and those two goals … he created that whole OT goal. When you see the fight on the wall against those boys (Forsberg and Hedman) that were a lot bigger than him and that's where it was all initiated and it ends up in the net. We just continually found ways to do that and it's the beauty of this team."

Video: EUR@SWE: Tatar flips home own rebound for a 2-1 lead

Tatar's first goal and point of the tournament put more than a little doubt into Team Sweden.

Twelve seconds into the third period, he scored to put Team Europe ahead 2-1 by following his own shot to the net. Lundqvist juggled that high shot with his catching glove and Tatar was there to chop in the rebound.

"That first one was amazing because then I thought we had a chance to win the game," Tatar said. "Obviously as soon as I scored one, you start feeling better. We were up, they tied it, so we stuck together and we scored in overtime."

The 25-year-old from Ilava, Slovakia, declined to rank his overtime goal among his career accomplishments.

"I'm not looking at it this way," he said. "It's just one of the goals that I'm enjoying with the group. I'm not looking if it's an important goal or not."

Tatar said that in a compressed tournament format, a scoring touch can sometimes be a hard thing to find.

"You're not going to score 10 goals here," he said. "It's a hard tournament, really good players. I tried, but the puck couldn't find the net. I got lucky today and found it twice."

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