Canada escaped a scare from a determined French squad, thanks to a lucky bounce from Marc-Édouard Vlasic, to take a tight 3-2 victory over the World Championship hosts in Paris to remain perfect and retain the International Hockey Lineal Championship.
France, coming off a historic victory over Finland just days earlier, and backed by a raucous Parisian crowd, showed early that their previous win was no fluke. Despite dropping the lead early on a Ryan O’Reilly power play goal, Les Bleus equalized less than four minutes later, with Olivier Dame-Malka blasting a bullet on a drop pass from Anthony Rech past Chad Johnson top corner, evening things at 1-1 after 20 minutes, on the backs of solid goaltending from the hero of the Finland match, French keeper Florian Hardy.
France took the lead just 97 seconds into the second, with Damien Fleury burying a nifty cross-ice feed from Stéphane Da Costa into a wide open net to take the 2-1 lead, Canada’s first time trailing in the tournament so far. Hardy and the French defence put up a strong front, despite taking a trio of penalties and being outshot 15-4 on the period, but were unable to hold on to the lead until the end of the frame. Captain Claude Giroux zipped a wrister through traffic over Hardy top corner with just 49 seconds left in the period, evening the score again by intermission.
Canada took the lead for good 2:22 into the third, on the aforementioned lucky bounce by Vlasic. A seemingly harmless dump-in from the point, deliberately shot by Vlasic wide of the goal, bounced off the back boards and behind Hardy; defender Jonathan Janil, in to clear the puck, was instead checked by quick-thinking Canadian Mitch Marner, pushing Janil into the puck and forcing him to score on his own net, giving Canada a very unexpected lead. It was Johnson and Canada who were now tasked with playing a defensive game, as a lost lead and a major penalty to Jeff Skinner gave France numerous opportunities to tie. Despite being outshot 12-10 in the period, the Canucks managed to hold on, avoiding yet another French upset and maintaining their perfect record in Paris.
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.