With less than 14 minutes to play, Fleury tipped Stephane Da Costa’s one-timer on the powerplay past Austrian netminder Bernhard Starkbaum’s glove and that would be enough to give France their first win at this year’s Worlds.
“I knew that when Stephane was going to take the one-timer I should go to the net, and I managed to tip it a little bit,” said Fleury. “It was a good goal.”
Then with 58 seconds remaining, French captain Laurent Meunier added some insurance with an empty-netter.
Both teams opted for experience in goal for this crucial game, and Cristobal Huet came away victorious as France outshot Austria 29-23.
In a testament to perseverance, it was the 39-year-old netminder’s first career World Championship shutout. This is his 11th tournament, trailing only the USSR’s Vladislav Tretiak and Belarus’s Andrei Mezin in that department (13).
“I thought we were the better team,” said Michael Raffl, the only Austrian NHLer at this tournament. “If we get the first goal, we win that game. We didn’t get any bounces. Then they score on the power play, and it’s the worst game of our lives.”
Historically, this has been a tight rivalry. The win improved France’s all-time record against Austria to four wins, one tie, and three losses, dating back to 1930.
The next opponent for both these nations is the host Czech Republic. France faces this big challenge on Thursday, while the Austrians are off until Friday.