TORONTO – Tomas Tatar scored two goals, including the winner 3:43 into overtime, as underdog Team Europe defeated Team Sweden, 3-2, on Sunday in Toronto to advance to the World Cup of Hockey final series.
“Tomas stepping up with his spirit and those two goals, really – he created that whole OT goal,” Team Europe coach Ralph Krueger said. “When you see the fight on the wall against those boys that were a lot bigger than him, that’s where it all was initiated. It ends up in the net, and we just continually found ways to do that, and that’s the beauty of this team.”
The best-of-three series begins Tuesday (8 p.m., ESPN, CBC) with Europe taking on Team Canada (4-0-0), which defeated Russia in the other semifinal on Saturday. Canada beat Europe, 4-1, in the first round.
Team Europe (3-1-0), a collection of players from eight European countries, surprised many by taking down a powerhouse squad from Sweden (2-1-1).
“I felt like right before they scored the game-winning goal we had a two-on-one situation and we couldn’t score,” Sweden coach Rikard Gronborg said. “If you put yourself in that position, one of the top four teams in this tournament, you go into overtime, obviously we’ve done a lot of good stuff.
“That’s how I sum it up, and I think obviously there are things you want to go back and change, but right now I’m content we’re top four, but I’m obviously disappointed we’re not top two.”
Goaltender Jaroslav Halak stopped 37 of 39 shots while improving his save percentage in the tournament to .946.
“I mean, Jaro has been just an absolute leader in the room,” Krueger said. “Everybody wants to play for him. From day one, he grabbed the ball. ... He’s been outstanding. He’s been absolutely fantastic. Everybody in this room knows we wouldn’t be here without fabulous goaltending, and a world-class performance by Jaro Halak has helped us a lot.”
Nicklas Backstrom opened the scoring 2:31 into the second period to give Sweden the advantage, but Marian Gaborik equalized for Europe at 16:27.
Europe took a 2-1 lead on Tartar’s first goal just 12 seconds into the third period, but Erik Karlsson equalized with less than five minutes remaining in regulation before Tartar’s winner.
Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist, who helped the Swedes win gold at the 2006 Olympics, stopped 28 shots. He had a shot to prevent both of Tatar’s goals. On the game-winner, Lundqvist got caught out of position after trying to play a puck behind the net.
Mats Zuccarello sent the puck from the left boards toward the net and Tatar stuffed it into the net from the right side.
As Lundqvist lay on the ice with his head down, the Europeans huddled up in the right corner and bounced on their skates to celebrate before shaking hands with the stunned Swedes.