France scored four unanswered third-period goals to come from behind to beat Slovakia 5-3 in Group A action at Chizhovka Arena in Minsk, Belarus.
If yesterday's loss to Italy broke a few French hearts, today's win surely must have put them all on the mend.
With four minutes to go in the third, Damien Fleury scored the game-winning goal from short range only one minute after France had killed off a 1:52 two-man disadvantage.
The win gives France five points in Group A, while Slovakia remains at one.
"It’s the third time in a row we blew it in the third period, and it’s unacceptable," said Slovakia's Marek Hrivik. "We just took too many penalties. We gave them a chance to come back, and they used it against us. We’ve just got to figure it out."
The other French goals were scored by Baptiste Amar and Antoine Roussel, who had two goals each.
"I feel like our team has a lot of character," Roussel said. "We created our chances on the power play. We were so aggressive and we didn’t take so many shots. But at the same time, we kept our eyes on the shooting opportunities we had. It’s awesome."
Ladislav Nagy scored two for Slovakia after coming into the game without points. Miroslav Satan also recorded his first points of the tournament with a goal and an assist.
While playing short-handed late in the first, Slovakia drew first blood, as Ladislav Nagy accelerated from his own zone to the French end before firing a shot that found the back of the net on Huet’s stickhand side.
Early in the second, he got his second of the night when Satan, along the boards, flipped a pass over the stick of France’s defencemen to the front of the net, where he put his stick on the puck to make it 2-0.
On the power play, France cut the lead in half as Baptiste Amar’s shot from the blueline was deflected on Slovak defenceman Marek Daloga and into the net, via Jan Laco’s left post.
After the goal, France kept the initiative for the next ten-minute period forcing Laco to make several qualified stops. But, when Slovakia got a chance late in the period on the power play, they were without mercy. After a nice pass from Michel Miklik that cut through the French four man unit, Miroslav Satan made it 3-1 with a one-timed slapshot from the right circle.
"Actually, I think we were playing the best hockey since the beginning of the game at the point when they scored the third goal," said Baptiste Amar. "I think we had maybe 10 minutes of great hockey in their zone. Then they scored that goal on the power play to make it 3-1. We just told ourselves, ‘That’s it. Let’s play in their zone. Let’s put a lot of pressure on those guys. Let’s not play fancy.’ That’s how we were able to come back."
In the third, chances were few and far between as Slovakia controlled the game, keeping France from getting in close on Laco in the Slovak net.
But with ten minutes remaining it all changed. France got a two-man advantage for 1:18, with Slovaks Juraj Valach and Marek Daloga both in the box. After showing up some patient passing, Baptiste Amar found himself in the middle of the slot and could fire home an accurate wrist shot past Laco.
Only 24 seconds later, France made it 3-3 on the ensuing 5-on-4 as Nicolas Besch’s shot from the blue line was tipped in front by Antoine Roussel.
With seven minutes remaining, Slovakia got a chance to regain the lead when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Antonin Manavian was sent to the box just eight seconds apart. But the French three-man unit battled heroically to keep the puck out of their own net.
"They could have turned it around there, so that’s great," said Roussel. "[Our three-man unit made] a couple of good blocks."
And just one minute after getting back to full strength, Damien Fleury charged towards the Slovak net after a short rebound, pushing the puck high past Laco, giving France the lead for the first time in the game.
With time winding down, Slovakia pulled their netminder for a final push, but this was not their day.
Instead, Antoine Roussel got his second of the game, shooting the puck into the empty net.