For France, the task was tough: defeat Team Canada to remain in the thick of things in Group B at the IIHF World Hockey Championship. And despite that tall order, they were able to skate with the Canadians, only falling by a goal, 3-2.
For Canada, it was Ryan O’Reilly of the Sabres who got them going, scoring from Nathan MacKinnon and Mark Scheifele at the 5:19 mark of the first period to give them a 1-0 lead. That was a power play goal after France had taken a bench minor for too many men on the ice.
But the French would get the equalizer before the period was through. Olivier Dame-Malka scored at the 9 minute mark from Anthony Rech and Nicolas Ritz to tie things up. The French would have the momentum going into the second period.
That momentum would be helped out a little bit by Chris Lee taking an interference call just 1:24 into the second frame. The French were on the power play and they would capitalize. Damien Fleury scored just 13 seconds into the man advantage from Stephane da Costa and Yohann Auvitu. For Auvitu, that was his fourth point of the tournament (one goal and three assists in four games) and the French had the 2-1 lead.
But again, much like the French did in the first period, the Canadians would grab a late goal to even it up. Claude Giroux scored with less than a minute remaining in the second period from Lee to make it 2-2. That goal was also on the power play. Dame-Malka was serving a cross checking penalty called at the 18:27 mark of the period.
So Canada had knotted things up going into the third period and they would take the final lead of the game early in that period. That came when Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored unassisted just 2:22 in. Canada now had a 3-2 lead and that is how it would end, despite the Canadians giving the French every opportunity. Jeff Skinner was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for spearing 1:30 after the Canada go ahead goal. The French also took a high sticking minor on the same play from Dame-Malka. France would not score on that chance. Scheifele took a cross checking penalty with under six minutes to go in the game, but the French could not get one behind goaltender Chad Johnson there either.
Auvitu’s stat line read one assist for one point, two shots on goal, and a plus-1 rating all in 22:30 of ice time.
For the goalies, France’s Florian Hardy made 32 saves on 35 Canadian shots while Johnson made 22 stops on 24 French shots.
In the end, it was close but no cigar for France. Canada stays atop Group B at 4-0-0-0 with a plus-15 goal differential and 12 points. France moves down to fifth with a 1-1-0-2 record, a plus-3 goal differential and five points.
France’s next challenge is Belarus, who currently stand at the bottom of Group B with four losses, tomorrow at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.