KOSICE – Sweden scored three first-period goals and Viktor Fasth blocked all 29 shots he faced as Tre Kronor skated to a convincing 4-0 win over France at Steel Arena tonight.
Sweden-France 4-0 (3-0, 0-0, 1-0) Game Sheet Photos
With the win Sweden moves into a first place tie with Canada in Group F. Both nations have seven points. France is now in serious jeopardy of missing the quarter-finals having just one point and sitting in last place among the six teams.
Defencemen Oliver Ekman Larsson and Staffan Kronwall led the attack with a goal and assist each. Sweden fired 58 shots at two French goalies.
"It feels great," said Fasth. "We played really well today. We kept them on the outside in our zone. They had a lot of shots from the outside."
"You always want to start well," said Loui Eriksson, "and I think we did that today with three goals in the first period. It was a good game for us."
In truth, the game wasn’t much of a contest. The Swedes were bigger, faster, stronger, and more skilled, and all three goals in the first attested to these differences. The first goal came at 4:34 after a prolonged session of cycling in the French end. The finishing touches came when Daniel Fernholm found Robert Nilsson wide open to the back side of the goal, and Nilsson buried the shot past a helpless Cristobal Huet.
Sweden made it 2-0 midway through the period on an unlucky bounce for the French. Ekman Larsson’s point shot hit the leg of defenceman Nicolas Besch in front and into the cage past a surprised Huet.
The third goal was a show of speed and strength. Magnus Pääjärvi simply bullied his way to the net, and although Huet made the save the puck came right to Patrik Berglund and he made no mistake with his quick shot. A frustrated Huet shot the puck over the glass, but the referee generously gave him only a warning instead of a penalty.
"You have to go out there and work hard, knowing you're going to get the chances," Eriksson explained, "but you have to play always like it's a 1-1 game."
That first period more or less ended France’s chances of winning. Huet was the only reason the score wasn’t double or greater, the last line of defence time and again. Coach Dave Henderson, however, pulled Huet after the first and inserted Fabrice Lhenry, hoping to get things going. Lhenry was perfect in the second, stopping all 20 shots, while the French had a few good scoring chances late in the period. Still, goalie Viktor Fasth was perfect.
Kronwall scored a beautiful goal early in the third, coming out of the corner, deking Besch out of his jock, and roofing a backhand past Lhenry to make it 4-0.
"Our job is already done making it to the second round, but we have to be motivated for the rest of the tournament and try to take the game for the experience," said French defenceman Kevin Hecquefeuille.
Sweden’s next game is against Switzerland on Sunday while France plays the United States on Saturday.