Brad Marchand had the tournament of his life in Toronto, and he capped it by scoring what likely will go down as one of the most memorable goals in Canadian hockey history.
Marchand's shorthanded goal with 43.1 seconds remaining in the third period of Game 2 lifted Team Canada to the win and the World Cup championship Thursday. He led the tournament with five goals, none more important or timely than the one he scored against Team Europe.
Jonathan Toews carried the puck into the zone and forced Team Europe's forwards to back off. Logan Couture went to the bench so Marchand could jump over the boards. He raced down the middle of the ice, into the gap created by Toews' ability to push the forwards back.
Toews found Marchand, whose shot from between the circles went past goalie Jaroslav Halak's blocker and into the net, setting off a celebration that would eventually get wilder once the clocked ticked down to zeroes soon after.
"It's been a dream come true," Marchand said. "I'll cherish every second of this for the rest of my life."
To understand what Team North America was all about in this tournament, all you needed to see was the first 95 seconds of its 4-3 overtime win against Team Sweden in the preliminary round on Sept. 21.
Goal by Auston Matthews at 30 seconds. Breakaway that leads to a penalty shot (missed) by Johnny Gaudreau at 56 seconds. Goal by Vincent Trocheck at 1:35.
Gaudreau had another breakaway later in the period; he scored on that one.
Team North America was playing at a breathtaking pace. The energy at Air Canada Centre was fantastic. It was fun, entertaining, exciting hockey.
It didn't last because Team Sweden eventually found its equilibrium and tied the game late to get to overtime, securing the point it needed to reach the semifinals. But then there was that overtime period …
3. And it was 3-on-3 at its absolute best
The end of the Team North America-Team Sweden preliminary-round game was as thrilling as the start.
It wrapped up with Team North America forward Nathan MacKinnon's OT winner, when he made what seemed like 1,000 moves before dragging the puck on his forehand around Team Sweden goalie Henrik Lundqvist's sweeping stick, putting it on his backhand and roofing a shot over the goalie's blocker.
The entire OT was up and down. Chances on both ends. Speed. Skill. Breakaways. Saves. This was the reason the NHL implemented the 3-on-3 overtime format. It was flat-out fun until MacKinnon capped it with his brilliance at 4:11.
Nobody envisioned Team Europe's eventual success when the tournament began, but forward Tomas Tatar's overtime winner against Team Sweden in the semifinals on Sunday changed everyone's vision of the amalgamated team that came into the tournament with no past and leaves without the certainty of a future.
Lundqvist went behind the net to play the puck, but it went around the boards instead and came to Team Europe forward Mats Zuccarello, who shot it from the left-wing half wall through the slot.
Tatar, cutting in from the right side, stopped it with his right skate and took a shot that hit Lundqvist's left pad. The rebound went off Tatar's left skate and into the net. There was no kicking motion, so the goal stood and Team Europe celebrated its way into the best-of-3 final against Team Canada.
Matthews' first goal at Air Canada Centre, against Team Russia on Sept. 19, is one that will be part of highlight shows for years to come. He has Team North America captain Connor McDavid to thank, because McDavid made the whole thing happen.
McDavid got the puck at the top of the left circle in the defensive zone. He sped up and raced down the right-wing wall, blowing past Team Russia center Pavel Datsyuk and putting defenseman Alexei Emelin on his heels, almost to the point he fell down.
Matthews kept up with him, skating down the center lane untouched. McDavid got close to the net and shoveled a backhanded pass over to Matthews, who redirected the puck into the net to give Team North America a 1-0 lead at 5:14 of the first period.
It was the first of what will likely be many goals for Matthews at Air Canada Centre. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 NHL Draft went from the World Cup straight into his first training camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It was all Team Sweden, a total smothering domination of Team Russia, for 59 minutes in the preliminary-round opener for each on Sept. 17. But Alex Ovechkin scored at 19:27 of the third period to slice the deficit to 2-1. Then he thought he scored again with 8.2 seconds remaining.
He didn't, though it was close.
Ovechkin celebrated as if he had scored the tying goal in what was the best game of the first two days of the tournament, but the officials ruled on the ice it was no goal because Ovechkin batted the puck into the net with his hand. Video replay confirmed the call.
Ovechkin argued and later said he thought he touched it, but he couldn't change the result or the outcome. Fortunately for Team Russia, it went on to win its next two games to make it to the semifinal.
The talk going into the tournament was that anything could happen, that with the eight teams here, no one was unbeatable and every game was going to be tough. We quickly found out that anything definitely could happen.
Team Europe stunned Team USA in the first game of the tournament on Sept. 17 with a 3-0 win. Marian Gaborik scored on a 2-on-1 in the first period. Leon Draisaitl scored on a 2-on-0 early in the second. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare added a goal late in the second. Jaroslav Halak made 35 saves.
That win, coupled with a 3-2 overtime victory against Team Czech Republic, lifted Team Europe into the semifinals, where it upset Team Sweden.
That loss, coupled with a 4-2 loss to Team Canada in its second game, eliminated Team USA from the competition.
Team Europe proved in the first game of the tournament it was good, and it was for real. Team USA proved in the same game it was overrated.
The buzz was palpable during the opening ceremonies at the Scotiabank World Cup of Hockey Fan Village on Sept. 16.
Toronto's historic Distillery District, transformed into the ultimate fan experience, was jammed with 13,486 people ready to celebrate the start of the newest and perhaps greatest best-on-best tournament.
The NHL had the band, The Killers, perform on the Pepsi Live Main Stage as the main event. Sam Roberts Band and Daya also performed. All 184 players in the tournament were introduced on the Main Stage as well.
It was loud. It was fun. It was the perfect kickoff to the main event, which began the next day with two preliminary-round games.
Wayne Gretzky arrived at the World Cup on Sunday. He stayed through the week and on Tuesday was part of the announcement of the NHL's Centennial celebration, for which he will serve as ambassador.
Gretzky took part in a Q&A at the Fan Village hosted by Sportsnet's Christine Simpson on Sunday. She also interviewed Gretzky on the big screen during the first game of the final between Team Canada and Team Europe on Tuesday.
Prior to that game, Gretzky did something that went viral. He went into Team Europe's dressing room and left a handwritten note for captain Anze Kopitar that read, "Good luck. Have fun." It was signed, "Wayne, 99."
Kopitar was flattered.
"He's Wayne Gretzky," Kopitar said. "I don't think I really have to say any more than that."
It was supposed to be Green Day. The 30-year-old Rock and Roll Hall of Fame punk rock band was supposed to play Fan Village last Friday, the day off between the preliminary-round games and the start of the semifinals. But it had to cancel at the last minute because of an illness affecting several members of the band and its crew, according to Green Day.
The NHL had a heck of a backup plan, though, and it secured Lenny Kravitz, a four-time Grammy Award winner, to play the Fan Village.
Kravitz rocked yet another packed crowd on the Pepsi Live Main Stage at the Fan Village in Toronto's Distillery District with his famous songs "Fly Away," "American Woman," and "Are You Gonna Go My Way."