TORONTO - A wild rally in the final moments of regulation helped Canada capture a second straight World Cup of Hockey. Here are five things we learned from their triumph:
1. Sidney Crosby is on an incredible roll
Crosby added a World Cup crown and tournament MVP to a 2016 that already includes a Conn Smythe trophy and Stanley Cup. The 29-year-old Canadian captain had three goals and 10 points in six games in Toronto. He notched at least a point in every game but one, including a helper on Patrice Bergeron's game-tying marker Thursday night.
Since Jan. 1, including regular season, playoffs and World Cup, Crosby has 36 goals and 87 points in 74 games. He's stamped his place atop the sport once more.
Canada's head coach Mike Babcock described Crosby as a "serial winner".
"Sid's unbelievable," Babcock said. "I've been real lucky, I've been around him now three times and we win every time. He does it right. He works hard. He doesn't complain. If he gets 15 minutes, he doesn't say a word. If he gets 20 minutes, doesn't say a word. If he misses three shifts in a row, he doesn't say a word. If the penalty killers go out there and he's not playing — whatever he's got to do, and then in the biggest moments he turns it up."
Crosby's trophy collection now includes: two Stanley Cups, one World Cup, two Olympic gold medals, one world junior gold and one world championship gold.
2. Canada needed Price at his best after all
During the first half of the tournament it looked like Canada might not need greatness from Carey Price.
He was tested only minimally during the preliminary round, his team rolling over the likes of the Czech Republic, United States and Europe. But at points of a semifinal matchup with Russia and for two games in the final against the Europeans, Price was sensational.
The 29-year-old finished the World Cup with a .957 save percentage. He stopped 156 of 163 shots faced, including 64 of 66 in the final. His biggest stop came mere moments before Brad Marchand delivered the short-handed winner, Price stopping an open Marian Hossa in front on a European power play.
Bergeron had tied the game at one less than two minutes earlier.
"Yeah, I think you can just see the emotion in the whole arena when he made that save," Marchand said. "I think everyone, especially after the (tying) goal, was (feeling) unbelievable, very electric. And when he made that save, they kind of brought it to another level. And we feed off of that energy, there's no question about that."
Any questions about rust for Price, who was coming off a season-ending right knee injury last season, are gone. Price might just be the favourite to recapture the Vezina Trophy. He won in the award for the first time in 2015.
3. Marchand excelled on the big stage
No player saw his stock rise higher than the 28-year-old from Halifax.
Marchand proved the perfect sidekick to Crosby and Bergeron, his five goals leading the World Cup and his eight points second to Crosby. The Boston Bruins winger has had a year to remember. He notched a career-high 37 goals and 60 points last season, drawing an eight-year extension worth US$49 million late last week.
"This is the biggest stage in the world right now, and to be a part of it is an incredible honour," Marchand said. "And then to be put on the line with Sid and (Bergeron) is another big honour. A lot of pressure that goes with that, but it's been an incredible experience every day with the guys in the room and off the ice.
"I'll cherish every second of this for the rest of my life."
Crosby found connection with Marchand and Bergeron instant, the trio remaining intact from the first day of camp. They were Canada's best line all tournament.
Babcock said Marchand's performance earned him a shot at the Olympics if NHL players go in 2018.
Bergeron's performance shouldn't be forgotten either. The 32-year-old scored four goals and seven points in six games.
4. The Canadians got by without their best defenceman
Duncan Keith's absence forced Canada to shuffle the deck.
Babcock opted to move Marc-Edouard Vlasic into Keith's presumed spot alongside Shea Weber, while Jay Bouwmeester took Vlasic's slot beside Drew Doughty.
If not always a smooth operation — they had trouble moving the puck out of the defensive zone at times against Europe.
Doughty ended up grabbing a ton of ice time, including a team-leading 25-plus minutes in Game 2 of the final.
Keith, the two-time Norris Trophy-winning defenceman, was forced to pull out of the tournament before it started with a lingering knee injury. The 33-year-old was arguably Canada's most important defender at the 2014 Olympics, a trusted asset in every kind of situation for Babcock.
His absence exposed maybe the country's biggest weakness with respect to international hockey: elite left-shooting defencemen.
The Canadians are ridiculously deep up front, in goal and on the right side of defence, but lack relatively-speaking in high-end left-handed options. Indicative of that was Babcock's decision to play Alex Pietrangelo, a right-shooter, on the left. He is historically a rigid opponent of such moves.
It's worth noting, too, that Canada played without two of the top scorers in hockey, Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and still won the tournament with relative ease.
5. Canada was good, not great
Perhaps they set the bar too high in Sochi.
This group, while far superior to every opponent in Toronto, did not meet the ridiculous standard of two years earlier. Consider that in Russia, Canada allowed only three goals, never trailed and shut out foes from Sweden and the U.S. in the final and semifinal.
"In Sochi we were (so much) better than the other teams that they couldn't touch the puck," Babcock said.
The World Cup numbers still look pretty good: Canada went 6-0-0, outscored teams 24-8 and trailed on only three occasions. The Canadians were never really firing on all cylinders though. They never got to the point of four lines dominating the puck in wave after wave. Ryan O'Reilly even suggested before the World Cup-clinching victory on Thursday that Canada hadn't put together a complete game.
The Canadians were just deeper than everyone else and like other teams, were probably hurt by the September start time.
"The perception is that we're miles better than everyone else," Babcock said. "I think our country's deeper, but you only get to play five guys at a time."
"I don't know if we played our best at the end," he added. "In saying that we played our best in the third and we played our best when it mattered."
Still, Canada has won 16 straight games in the best-on-best format and three straight crowns.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version included an incorrect reference to the year of the Sochi Games.