HELSINKI – France pushed Team USA, and pushed hard, but Team USA was too strong. They took their fourth win in the tournament, as they beat France 4-2.
With the win, Team USA took over the top spot in Group H.
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"Every team in this tournament can beat anyone. It's one game, and if you don't show up to play, you're not going to get the win. Every regulation win is huge, and to get that today puts us in a good spot," said USA's Stephen Gionta.
"We look at the standings every morning, to see where everyone is. We know we have to take care of business, but we've put ourselves in a spot where we wanted to be before the tournament, which is to be in control of our own destiny," he added.
Ten different players collected points, Ben Bishop made 13 saves for the USA. Cristobal Huet stopped the puck 31 times in France’s goal.
France opened the game strong, forechecking hard and matching the Americans’ speed in all three zones. Unfortunately for the French, they got into some penalty trouble, and the game’s momentum shifted to Team USA.
France's coach Dave Henderson wasn't pleased with the team's competition level.
"We didn't compete as hard as we've done in our previous games, and it shows on the scoreboard," he said.
While Team USA couldn’t convert on their two power plays in the first 6:45 of the game, Vincent Bachet had just skated from the penalty box to the bench when Tim Stapleton got the puck on the blueline. He sent a wrist shot towards the French net, and Stephen Gionta deflected it to the back of the net, stunning Cristobal Huet in France’s goal.
Ben Bishop in the U.S. goal made only three saves in the first period, and the first one close to the halfway mark of the period, but he did demonstrate his stickhandling at the six-minute mark when he fooled a French forechecker with a crafty backhand pass.
With 2:43 remaining in the first period, Team USA made it 2-0, after some nifty passing in the French zone. Tim Stapleton got the puck in the corner, he carried to the top of the left faceoff circle, drawing a French defender to him. Then he sent the puck across the slot to Drew Le Blanc who backhanded it to Bobby Butler, who slammed it into an empty French net from the back door.
"It's important to get scoring throughout the lineup," said Gionta.
France got back into the game in the second period, when Team USA took two penalties seven minutes into the action as Paul Stastny and Erik Johnson took slashing minors just 15 seconds apart.
France moved the puck well around the zone. Kevin Hecquefeuille passed it to Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the left faceoff dot, Bellemare sent it right back to Hecquefeuille who one timed a slapshot from the slot, and with Sacha Treille screening Bishop’s view, the shot went top-shelf and made it a one-goal game at 8:24.
On equal strength, Team USA took over the game, but Huet came up big in the last minutes of the second period, stopping a shot from point blank range on an American partial breakaway.
Team USA also had a goal waved off, when it was determined - after a video review - that the net had moved before the puck crossed the goal line.
France’s comeback was delayed by two penalties in the first three minutes, which the team had to kill before it began its chase. The team in blue created several good chances during Bobby Butler’s penalty halfway through the period, but Bishop was big in the U.S. goal.
"We get more chances in every game, and we just have to put the puck into the net," France's Brian Henderson said.
And then, with 8:23 remaining in the third period, Paul Stastny had an easy job to backhand a loose puck into an empty French net, to make it 3-1, when Craig Smith fanned on a shot which threw the French defence - and Huet - off while the puck went straight to Stastny.
"We tried to play our best. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy game for us. We know how to play well defensively, but we made a few mistakes and they scored on their chances," Brian Henderson said.
Less than two minutes later, David Moss deflected Justin Faulk’s shot past Huet, to make it 4-1 on the power play.
With a minute and a half left in the game, France scored their second of the game, when team captain Laurent Meunier - back in the lineup after his trip home to be at the birth of his child - won a faceoff in USA's zone. Julien Desrosiers took a shot, and Yorick Treille slammed the rebound in to make it 4-2.