Patrik Laine and Aleksander Barkov tallied a goal and an assist for Finland, and their linemate Jussi Jokinen chipped in two assists. Esa Lindell added a single.
The Finns employed a patient, methodical approach similar to their 3-0 victory over Hungary. But they only outshot their opponents 19-18 in this instance, and ran into penalty trouble in the late stages.
“12:15 games are not so easy,” said Finnish head coach Kari Jalonen. “They are not common in ice hockey. Our team did well in preparing for the game to play at a top level. The first two periods we were playing well at both ends of the ice. Our penalty kill did well for us when we needed it in the third period.”
Still sporting a perfect record, Finland is competing with unbeaten Canada for top seed in Group B. After facing Slovakia on Sunday, they’ll confront the Canadians in their round-robin closer on Tuesday night.
It was the fourth win for Finnish starting goalie Mikko Koskinen, who has allowed just six goals so far.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare got the lone goal for France.
It was another blow to France’s hopes of making the quarter-finals for the third time in its history. Coach Dave Henderson’s team was defeated for the second straight game. The French have two games left, against Canada on Monday and Belarus on Tuesday.
“I thought we played hard the whole game in the offensive zone and the neutral zone,” said Henderson. “We did what we tried to do, but unfortunately we had a few breakdowns that cost us those three goals. But we fought hard until the end, and I’m happy with the players. We’ll move on to the next game with the same idea.”
The Finns have never lost to France at the IIHF World Championship. This was their eighth straight victory dating back to 1993.
As in the 3-0 win against Hungary, the more talented Finns were guilty of not bearing down on their early chances. France killed off two first-period man advantages. Veteran French goalie Cristobal Huet made a great right pad save on Jarno Koskiranta to keep it scoreless.
At last, five minutes into the second period, the Finnish power play came alive on its third try. Granlund set up Lindell for a center point drive that sailed past Huet on the stick side.
Finland kept plugging away. Midway through the second period, Yohann Auvitu miraculously stopped Mikko Koivu with his stick in mid-air when the Finnish captain had Huet down and out. The play was video-reviewed and there was no goal.
At 10:40, Finland grabbed a 2-0 lead when Laine fired a shot from the right point and Barkov, stationed in front, tipped it down through Huet’s legs. The French goalie immediately protested that it was a high stick. Again, the play was video-reviewed, at great length, while the Finnish fans at Yubileiny chanted “Suomi!”, and this time it counted.
“It is always good to have your top line scoring because it gives them confidence,” said Finland’s Juuso Hietanen. “But it doesn’t really matter who scores the goals as long as they are playing well.”
At 14:50, Laine worked a great give-and-go with Jokinen to make it 3-0, rushing to the net and converted Jokinen’s backhanded pass with an in-tight backhander of his own. It was the fifth goal and ninth point of the tournament for the towering wunderkind, as he added to his record-setting totals for players aged 18 and under.
In the third period, back-up goalie Ronan Quemener replaced Huet with about 10 minutes remaining.
The French had an excellent chance to claw their way back into the game when they got an extended 5-on-3. They capitalized when the rebound from Auvitu’s long shot bounced off Sacha Treille and then in off Bellemare’s upper body area at 12:31. Yet another extended video review ensued before the Philadelphia Flyers forward was credited with his first goal of the tournament.
“The longer it took to review the play, the more confident I was it would be ruled a goal,” said Bellemare. “There was no way they could have called no goal because I didn’t interfere with the goalie.”
However, that was as close as France would get, despite outshooting Finland 10-3 in the final stanza. The Finns killed off a Granlund tripping minor to preserve their lead. Quemener only came out for the extra attacker with 15 seconds left, when it was too late.
“I thought we didn’t do well in the third period,” said Hietanen. “We forgot the small things like getting the puck deep and staying out of the penalty box.”