COLOGNE – The United States beat France 4-0 for its second straight win at the IIHF World Championship on Sunday and moved itself into a prime position to avoid being relegated to international hockey’s second tier.
The USA has six points, while France and Italy have three apiece. The Italians beat Kazakhstan 2-1 on Sunday, creating the possibility of a three-way knot for first place when the relegation round ends Tuesday.
The easiest way for the Americans to avoid being relegated is to gain at least one point against the Italians on Tuesday.
"We're not where we want to be but we want to win all three games in the relegation round," said USA captain Jack Johnson. "The easiest way to avoid going down is to win Tuesday's game, and we will be ready."
Nick Foligno, with a pair of goals, Brandon Dubinsky and T.J. Oshie scored for the USA in the second period and goaltender Scott Clemmensen didn’t exactly have a tough game in registering the USA’s second shutout in as many days.
Clemmensen and Ben Bishop shared the duties in goal in a 10-0 win over Kazakhstan on Saturday. The 10-goal margin of victory was the most one-sided win in the World Championship for the USA since a 12-1 triumph over Switzerland in round robin play.
While the French proved to be a stronger opponent than the Kazakhs, the score flattered them. The French defencemen struggled trying to contain the Americans all game. And the French didn’t have much in the way of velocity on their shots, not to mention their shot selection wasn’t up to snuff.
Oshie came within the width of a crossbar of scoring what would have been the only goal of the first period. He went from forehand to backhand with the puck on his stick and his shot beat goaltender Eddy Fehri but it struck iron.
Foligno finally solved Fehri at 4:49 of the second on a smart play by Johnson. The USA captain sent a cross-crease pass to Foligno, who was hovering off the left post. Fehri slid across his net to make the initial save and Foligno jammed the rebound past the goalie.
"We've been telling him it was time he started scoring," joked Johnson.
"It was a great pass and I just jammed it in," said Foligno. "I don't care how it went in."
Dubinsky doubled the margin at 13:11 by whipping a rebound past Fehri from between the faceoff circles.
Any chance of a French comeback were all but snuffed out at 1:46 of the third as Oshie snapped a rebound into the net for a 3-0 lead.
Foligno made it 4-0 on a wrist shot high to the stick side at 13:41 of the third.
Clemmensen’s best save of the game came in the second period when the teams were tied 0-0.
Sacha Treille got behind the USA defence for a short breakaway. He went from forehand to backhand with the puck and tried to lift the puck over Clemmensen’s catching glove but the USA goalie snagged the puck
"I made the move I wanted to make," the French forward said.
The game marked the sixth time the U.S. and France have met at the World Championship, and the U.S. has won five times.