TORONTO -- It featured more drama than the hometown fans might have wanted, but Canada's remarkable streak of international hockey dominance remains intact.
Canada won its 16th consecutive game in best-on-best competition, scoring twice in the final three minutes to erase a one-goal deficit and defeat Team Europe 2-1 to win the World Cup of Hockey.
Canada swept Team Europe in two straight games in the best-of-three final, but it wasn't easy, and at times Thursday night it wasn't particularly pretty. In fact, for 57 minutes it looked as though Team Europe head coach Ralph Krueger's plucky group of players from eight different European nations was going to force a third and deciding game on Saturday night.
Zdeno Chara gave the Europeans a 1-0 lead in the first period and Europe was the better of the two teams until the very final stages of the game. Team Europe consistently created chances off the forecheck and picked off errant Canadian passes in the neutral zone. But it couldn't get that crucial second goal, failing on a handful of odd-man rushes to beat Canadian netminder Carey Price.
That failure ultimately cost Team Europe. Indeed, that's what has made the Canadians so difficult to vanquish over the years. They might bend but they never break. Canada has not been beaten in best-on-best action since a preliminary-round loss to the United States at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010.
On Thursday night, when it looked as if that streak would finally end, it was the team's best players who rose to the occasion. Patrice Bergeron tipped home a Brent Burns point shot on a late power play after Canada had come up empty on four previous man-advantage efforts. The power play came when Team Europe captain and key penalty killer Anze Kopitar was in the box for holding.
Then, moments later, while killing a high-sticking penalty to Drew Doughty, Bergeron's Boston Bruins teammate and linemate throughout the tournament, Brad Marchand, whipped home a hard shot from the slot that netminder Jaroslav Halak had no chance to stop.
The winning goal came with 43.1 seconds left in regulation.
Sidney Crosby, the third member of that line, added an assist on the Bergeron goal and was named tournament MVP -- a fitting honor given his dynamite play throughout the World Cup.
If Game 1 of the final series earned criticism for a distinct lack of emotion from both Canada and the Air Canada Centre crowd in Canada's 3-1 victory, Game 2 was the polar opposite as fans periodically booed Canada's lack of execution and then came alive in the final, white-knuckle moments and stayed en masse as Canadian players paraded around the ice with the World Cup of Hockey trophy and "O Canada" echoed through the arena.
Our tournament All-Star team
Jaroslav Halak: The Team Europe goaltender was a rock throughout the tournament, entering Game 2 with a .941 save percentage. He stopped 32 of 34 Canadian shots Thursday and gave his team a chance at what would have been an enormous upset.
Drew Doughty: The defending Norris Trophy winner led all Canadians in average ice time in the tournament and was stellar both physically and on the offensive side of the puck.
Andrej Sekera: The big Edmonton Oilers blueliner was a bit of a revelation in this tournament as he was remarkably solid and led all Team Europe skaters in average ice time. He, Dennis Seidenberg and Chara were the team's key defenders throughout.
Sidney Crosby: The tournament MVP and Canadian captain continued the superlative play that saw him earn playoff MVP honors in June after his Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup. Crosby led all World Cup players with 10 points.
Anze Kopitar: The Los Angeles Kings' new captain was a horse, averaging more than 22 minutes a night in ice time and leading Team Europe with four assists.
Brad Marchand: It's difficult to leave Bergeron out of this group, but Marchand, who signed an eight-year contract extension with Boston during the tournament, had a dynamic tournament -- highlighted by his short-handed winner on Thursday night.