TORONTO (Reuters) – Germany’s Leon Draisaitl potted the overtime winner as Team Europe edged Czech Republic 3-2 on Monday to close in on a spot in the World Cup of Hockey semi-finals.
Team Europe (2-0), cobbled together with players from eight smaller hockey playing nations and coached by Canada-born Ralph Krueger, have been the tournament’s surprise package and followed their upset of the U.S. with another victory to sit atop Group A.
Canada (1-0) and the United States (0-1) will meet on Tuesday in what is a ‘must-win’ for the Americans if they hope to have any chance of securing a top-two spot in the group to advance.
Once again, Team Europe got goals from across the map with Slovakia’s Zdeno Chara, Norway’s Mats Zuccarello and Germany’s Draisaitl, who collected his second of the tournament midway through overtime when he beat Czech netminder Petr Mrazek low to the glove side.
“We’ve been playing some really good hockey and we just have to make sure we keep that going,” said Draisaitl.
“We don’t want to look too far ahead, we just want to take it game by game, but that is every team’s goal … to get to the semi-finals. That was another big step for us.”
After a scoreless first period, Anze Kopitar had a chance to break the game open in the second when Team Europe were awarded a penalty shot but the Los Angeles Kings sniper was denied by Mrazek.
Europe finally made the breakthrough midway through the frame when Chara, owner of the NHL’s hardest shot, beat Mrazek from the top of the faceoff circle.
After being shutout 6-0 by Canada in their opener, the Czechs finally got on the scoreboard when Jakub Voracek notched the equalizer as European netminder Jaroslav Halak surrendered his first of the tournament.
Zuccarello restored Team Europe’s lead early in the third but again the Czechs answered with a goal from Martin Hanzal to force overtime.
(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto; Editing by Mark Lamport-Stokes)