Canada led 1-0. France led 2-1. Canada went ahead 3-2. The sold-out crowd of 14,510 was rockin’ all night as David and Goliath played evenly for 60 minutes.
The win keeps Canada perfect with a 4-0 record, tops in the Group B standings, while the French have stalled and sit in sixth position with five points and a 1-1-0-2 record.
Although there were great performances by players from both sides, the true star of the game was the crowd.
“The crowd was great,” Canadian defenceman Jason Demers enthused. “They gave us a helluva game. It was great to see them push that hard. It’ll help us in the long run. A little adversity helped us, being down, and I thought we did a great job of coming together and holding strong.”
“It was very nice tonight, and hopefully it’s going to be like this through the end of the World Championship,” said French goalie Florian Hardy.
Hardy was sensational in goal for France, stopping 32 of 35 often difficult shots. The winning goal was as lucky as they come for Canada and as unlucky as they come for France.
Mitch Marner didn’t get an assist on that winning goal at 2:22 of the third period to break a 2-2 tie, but without his clever little play Marc-Édouard Vlasic never would have gotten credit for the goal.
Vlasic’s point shot went just wide, but the rebound caromed into the crease as Fleury was sliding back into the net. Defenceman Jonathan Janil was right there to sweep the puck out of harm’s way, but just as he got his stick on the puck, Marner checked him, causing Janil to push the puck into his own goal.
No sooner had Canada taken the lead, though, than Jeff Skinner was assessed a five-minute spearing penalty (and game misconduct) for trying to poke a save out of Hardy’s midsection. The French also took a minor on the play, but they still ended up with a three-minute power play.
Canada was flawless, though. And it was equally perfect later when the team took another minor. Indeed, Canada showed more than a little rust after a two-day layoff. The finish wasn’t there; the passing not quite as crisp. But the Canadians more than made up with it by a determined team effort, protecting their own goalie, Chad Johnson, and playing excellent defence.
“They’re tenacious,” Johnson said of the French. “They’ve got an NHL style. They’re hard on the puck. They defend really well, too. They don’t seem to get flustered or lose their composure, even with the score or how we control the play. They really stick together and generate a little bit of scoring chances too. They keep it simple.”
As one might have expected, Canada got the opening goal, off a too many men penalty by France. Ryan O’Reilly took a pass to the side of the goal and moved out front, roofing a backhand quickly into the top corner at 5:19.
Canada dominated the period and might have gone up 2-0, but Hardy made a great reaction save with his left pad as Marner redirected a pass on goal.
Soon after, the French tied the game. Olivier Dame-Malka took a quick and simple drop pass from Anthony Rech and drilled a rising rhot over the shoulder of Johnson at 9:00.
Although Canada controlled the puck, moved up ice with ease, and had the better of the scoring chances, it couldn’t get a second goal.
Early in the second, France sent the fans into paroxysms of joy on an early power play with newcomer Chris Lee in the box. Stéphane da Costa made a great cross-ice pass through traffic to Damien Fleury, and he wired a one-timer into the open side at 1:37.
Hardy was the difference in the game, but Canada finally solved him a second time with an extra man with only 49.7 seconds left in the period.
Lee, who was given a regular shift by coach Jon Cooper and didn’t look out of place, dished the puck off to Claude Giroux, and captain “G” snapped a shot to the top corner over Hady’s glove. It was the exact play Nathan MacKinnon had scored twice with earlier in the tournament.
That set the stage for a third period that was thrilling. The French fought valiantly to tie the game; Canada was just that bit better in protecting its lucky but deserved lead.
“It’s nice to chip in a little bit,” Lee said. “Unfortunately, I was in the penalty box for their second goal, so I was a little bit nervous after that. But I was able to contribute to the tying goal. We just kind of rolled from there.”
Canada now has an incredible 41-3 record at the senior level since the 2014 Olympics (6-0 in Sochi; 6-2 at 2014 Worlds; 10-0 at 2015 Worlds; 9-1 at 2016 Worlds; 6-0 at 2016 World Cup; and, 4-0 so far in Paris).
IHLC: With the win, Canada retains their 63rd and current International Hockey Lineal Championship, which they won from Switzerland just prior to the tournament, and retained in Paris with wins over Czechia, Slovenia and Belarus. This marked the 15th IHLC meeting in history between Canada and France, dating back to their first meeting in 1911, and improves Canada’s record to 9-5-1, in their first meeting since a 4-0 win at the 2016 World Championships. Canada will now play Switzerland next in two days’ time, aiming for a perfect Group Round with the IHLC in hand.
21:24 – PEN – Lee, interference
21:37 – PP GOAL – Fleury (S. Da Costa, Auvitu)
23:56 – PEN – Roussel, high sticking
28:46 – PEN – de Haan, cross checking
36:04 – PEN – Bellemare, cross checking
36:04 – PEN – Scheifele, roughing
38:27 – PEN – Dame-Malka, cross checking
39:11 – PP GOAL – Giroux (Lee)
Goaltenders: Chad Johnson, Calvin Pickard. Defence: Calvin de Haan, Jason Demers, Chris Lee, Michael Matheson, Josh Morrissey, Marc-Édouard Vlasic (A). Forwards: Sean Couturier, Matt Duchene, Claude Giroux (C), Alex Killorn, Travis Konecny, Ryan O’Reilly (A), Nathan MacKinnon, Mitchell Marner, Brayden Point, Mark Scheifele, Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds, Jeff Skinner.
Goaltenders: Florian Hardy, Ronan Quemener. Defence: Yohann Auvitu, Nicolas Besch, Florian Chakiachvili, Olivier Dame-Malka, Kévin Hecquefeuille (A), Jonathan Janil, Antonin Manavian. Forwards: Pierre-Édouard Bellemare (A), Maurin Bouvet, Valentin Claireaux, Stéphane Da Costa, Teddy Da Costa, Floran Douay, Damien Fleury, Laurent Meunier (C), Jordann Perret, Anthony Rech, Nicolas Ritz, Antoine Roussel, Sacha Treille.