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Canada Defeats Europe, Wins Group

Niederreiter, Europeans advance to semifinals of the World Cup despite loss

by Evan Sporer / Special to Wild.com

TORONTO - While Team Europe was exceeding the expectations set by many prior to the World Cup of Hockey through two games, it was par for the course for Canada. 

On Wednesday, the host country's drive toward continued international hockey dominance continued, and dealt Europe its first road bump. 

Canada put in its third dominating performance in as many games at Air Canada Centre, defeating Europe on Wednesday 4-1. 

Jonathan Toews scored twice for Canada, while Marian Hossa scored Team Europe's lone goal. 

"We knew how good Canada is, and they definitely showed it in the first period," Roman Josi said. "They had a lot of scoring chances in the first period, and a lot of speed, and we didn't play that well in the first. We played a little bit better after. We definitely saw what it takes in this tournament against the best."

Minnesota Wild forward Nino Niederreiter logged a tournament-high 12:37 time on ice. With each game, Niederreiter has been used more and more by head coach Ralph Krueger. Against Canada, his line received with Leon Draisaitl and Tobias Reider its most ice time. 

"Every time we were out there we just tried to play as good as we can," Rieder said. "We didn't give up a lot in the first two games so that's why we got more ice time today. We did our job pretty well."

Niederreiter also drew a penalty in the third period. He won a puck along the boards, used his body position to maintain possession, and was cross-checked by Alex Pietrangelo. 

Canada, which has trailed for 89 seconds through 180 minutes of World Cup play, led for nearly 56 minutes on Wednesday. It outshot Team Europe TK, and for the second time in three games registered at least 40 shots on goal. 

Key Moment: Despite Canada controlling play in the first period, out-shooting Team Europe 17-4, and despite the scoring chance Canada was generating, a bad angle shot by Hossa snuck through the legs of Corey Crawford early in the second period to cut Eruope's deficit to 2-1. 

But hockey has a strange way of sorting things out on the scoreboard, especially when one team is outplaying another and doesn't see that reflected on the scoreboard. 

So when Josi attempted to play the puck at the blue line in the offensive zone, and his stick blew up on him, the ensuing 3-on-1 was a bit of puck-luck-served for the Canadians. 

Toews carried the play into the zone, Josi stayed in position, without a stick, and without many options defensively, and Toews rifled a shot past Jaroslav Halak to make it a 3-1 game. 

Europe had been playing well through portions of the second period, getting sustained zone time in the Canadian's end, denting Canada's lead, and making things interesting. 

But as far as Canada has been concerned this tournament, it's been a matter of 'when' and not 'if.'

The Skinny: With both teams having qualified for the semifinal round prior to puck drop, the round robin game of Group A on Wednesday determined knockout round seeding. 

With the victory, Canada won the group, and will face either Team North America or Russia in the first semifinal Saturday night, and Europe will meet Sweden in the second semifinal, Sunday afternoon. 

"(Sweden plays) very structured, and get great goaltending, great defense," Josi said. "We played them in our third pre-tournament game so we kind of know what's coming. They're always really structured and play with a lot of poise. They obviously have some great guys up front, too."

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