Europe beats Sweden in OT to reach World Cup of Hockey finals

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Tuesday, October 4, 2016

TORONTO -- Tomas Tatar scored his second goal 3:43 into overtime to give Team Europe a 3-2 victory over Sweden on Sunday in the World Cup of Hockey semifinals.

The eight-nation European team will begin a best-of-three series against Canada on Tuesday night.

Europe will be heavy underdogs against the host Canadians, who have won two straight Olympic gold medals and 14 consecutive games in best-on-best tournaments.

That's just the way the Europeans like it because they know they wouldn't even have an opportunity to compete against Canada for their individual countries.

"This is our chance to go far in a tournament like this," Norway's Mats Zuccarello said. "I think we just cherish that moment and this chance."

Few, if anyone, expected the roster of players from the continent's non-traditional hockey powers to be among the final two in the event created by the NHL and the NHL Players' Association.

Everybody, though, with at least a passing interest in the sport would recognize at least some of the players who started Sunday's game: Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa and Zdeno Chara.

"You put all those countries together, there's lots of good players there," Canadian coach Mike Babcock said.

And with goaltender Jaroslav Halak, the Europeans seem to have a shot to stun Canada.

Halak made 37 saves against Sweden.

"We wouldn't be here without fabulous goaltending," Europe coach Ralph Krueger said.

Henrik Lundqvist, who helped the Swedes win gold at the 2006 Olympics, made 28 saves. He had a shot to prevent both of Tatar's goals.

On the winner, Lundqvist got caught out of position after playing the puck behind his net.

Zuccarello sent the puck from the left boards toward the net and Tatar stuffed it in from the right side. The score stood after a video review.

"I knew I didn't do a kicking motion, so I was hoping they were going to see it on the replay," Tatar said.

As Lundqvist lay on the ice with his head down, the Europeans huddled up in the right corner and bounced on their skates in jubilation before shaking hands with the stunned Swedes.

Krueger said his team can't get "giddy" about the win because it needs two more victories to really celebrate.

"We want to make it difficult for Canada to win the World Cup, and we'd like to get in the way of that," he said.

The loss may end up being the last time a pair of aging standouts, Lundqvist and Daniel Sedin, play for Sweden.

"I hope I have a chance to work with them again," Swedish coach Rikard Gronborg said.

On Tatar's go-ahead goal 12 seconds into the third period, Lundqvist failed to handle the puck cleanly with his glove and it was costly.

Tatar scored off his own rebound after beating defenseman Anton Stralman to the loose puck to make it 2-1.

"It handcuffed me a little bit," Lundqvist acknowledged.

Stralman redeemed himself midway through the third period by preventing the puck from going crossing the goal line after Thomas Vanek's shot on a breakaway trickled past Lundqvist.

Sweden's Erik Karlsson made it 2-all with 4:32 left in regulation. Karlsson shot the puck from just inside the blue line on the right side of the rink and Swiss defenseman Roman Josi swiped at the puck with his stick and redirected it into his own net.

Both teams had the lead once before overtime and scored once to pull into a tie.

Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom broke a scoreless tie early in the second with a goal that stood after Krueger challenged that Backstrom interfered with Halak.

Marian Gaborik tied the game at 1 late in the period.

Europe outshot the Swedes 15-9 in the second, and they may eventually lament not being more aggressive offensively when they had the lead for about 14 minutes of the period, missing out on an opportunity for a rematch of the 2014 Olympic finals against Canada.

"I don't think we were passive," Gronborg insisted.