Canada won its third game in a row, beating France 5-2 at Steel Arena this afternoon. The Canadians built an early lead and perhaps thought they could coast, only to see France make a comeback that required a suitable response.
“I liked our first period,” said Canada’s coach Alain Vigneault. “We came to play and played well. In the second period, we got a little loose defensively and a little loose with the puck. That gave France some momentum, some opportunities … They made it 3-2 on a couple of turnovers on our part and after that, we buckled down and started to play with the sense of urgency that you need.”
The result moves Canada into second place in Group A with nine points, behind only Germany. For France, the result is worrisome. It still has but one point and is mired in seventh place, making it look more and more like the final game of the round robin against Great Britain will have “stay or go down” implications.
“We’ve been playing good hockey,” said winning goalie Carter Hart. “France came out the last two periods and pushed hard. It was 3-2, but you can’t be worrying about the score. You’ve still gotta do your job. So we pushed back, got a couple of goals. and got the win.”
It didn’t take long for Canada to get going, and it did so via a gift from its opponents. The French took two quick penalties, and with the two-mad advantage Canada struck. Anthony Mantha blasted a slapshot form the top of the circle over the glove of Henri Corentin Buysse at 8:18 to make it 1-0.
Buysse, 31 years old, was making his senior debut with the national team and had an impressive outing.
“I was on a World Championship team 10 years ago, but I was only in the stands,” he explained. “I was a young guy then. Today was my first chance to start a game. When you’re a child, you dream of playing against Canada and it happened. I’m really happy about that. I played alright. There were a few goals I could have done better, but they missed some shots and hit the post, so I got lucky, too. I played a good game, but it could have been better.”
Two and a half minutes later, the Canadians doubled their lead on a nice pass from Jonathan Marchessault to Darnell Nurse on the back side. Nurse one-timed a shot and didn’t miss.
Later in the period it was Anthony Cirelli from in close, converting a fine back pass from behind the goal from Sean Couturier.
Shots in the first period were 16-2 for Canada as Carter Hart had little to do but sightsee from his blue ice view at the other end.
To France’s credit, it didn’t roll over. Indeed, it had the better of play in the second as a sleepy Canada fell back a bit. Carter Hart, though, with a shutout to his credit already, held the fort until a late goal from Damien Fleury on the power play.
With Darnell Nurse in the box for tripping, Fleury took a cross-ice pass from Florian Chakiachvili and smacked a fluttering puck over Hart’s shoulder.
Canada squandered a few good opportunities of its own, notably a breakaway by Dylan Strome and a botched two-on-one during a short-handed situation. The favourites just looked a little unmotivated, and it made for an interesting third period.
Anthony Rech missed a stretch pass through centre ice, but he chased after it and forced a turnover from defenceman Damon Severson. Rech stole the puck, walked out front, and roofed a shot at 2:55 to make it 3-2. Game on!
That was the wakeup call Canada needed. It moved the puck at will in the French zone for several minutes, and Mantha made it 4-2 on an odd play. Buysee, who had played well all day, lost track of a shot, and the puck rolled behind him along the goal line. As two teammates tried to clear it, Mantha poked his stick at it and nudged it over the line.
Mark Stone then made it 5-2 on another back pass from behind the goal line from Marcessault.