France, the little brother of hockey nations, has found a way in recent years to be a headache for Canada at the World Championships. Though the final result Monday didn’t reflect as such, it was a battle through the first two periods.
Despite what the shots suggest – 10-4 in favour of Canada – the first period wasn’t without stress for head coach Bill Peters and his team. It was the French, in fact, who got the game’s first dangerous scoring chance just six minutes into the period when Damien Fleury took a lead pass just behind the Canadian defence, skating in on a breakaway before hitting the post.
But the Canadians soon found their legs, cycling the puck with ease in the French zone and hemming their opponents in their zone, forcing France into a penalty. Although the Canadians earned the power play, it was the French who got the first chance of the man advantage, once again testing Calvin Pickard in the Canadian net.
But after a great stop by Pickard his teammates took the puck up ice, with every Canadian player on the ice touching the puck until Mark Stone finished the great passing play 8:32 into the period. From that point on in the period the French were limited in their opportunities, failing to break through and tie the game.
Both teams had offence on the brain to start the second period, trading chance after chance in the opening four minutes – including a failed penalty shot attempt by Charles Bertrand. Fortunately for Pickard France once again had only four shots in the frame, while his teammates directed another 16 at Roman Quemener who was able to keep the score at 1-0 for much of the period.
Despite surrendering more shorthanded chances from the French, including the second in as many periods from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, the Canadian power play was again responsible for igniting the offence (although not officially). As the once again buzzing Canadian power play was expiring, Matt Duchene cleaned up the garbage out front to make it 2-0 Canada.
Unlike the first two periods the Canadians were rewarded for their early pressure in the third, increasing their lead to 3-0 thanks to Mark Scheifele. Picking up his second point of the game on the play, via assist, was Stone, who also upped his point total in the tournament to seven.
After the teams once again traded chances through the middle stages of the period, it was the Canadians who broke through off a great give-and-go between Corey Perry and Ryan O’Reilly. After taking a pass from Perry, O’Reilly feather the puck through his feet to a moving Perry who slid the puck far side to up the Canadian lead to four goals.
By the time the final buzzer sounded Canada had built up a massive 46-13 advantage on the shot clock, changing the script from the Canada-France games of recent history. Canada now moves into its final round robin match with unbeaten Finland (May 17, 1:15 EST) looking for another victory to finish atop the Group B standings moving into the playoff round.