BERNE – Last year in Quebec, Sweden beat France 9-0. This year, the goals were divided more evenly, but Sweden still emerged as a winner, 6-3, entering the quarterfinals as the second-seeded team in Group E. France finished 12th, its best finish since 1997 when it was tenth.
Johnny Oduya, Kristian Huselius, and Marcus Nilson were in starring roles in Monday's matinee between Sweden and France, with a goal and an assist each. Carl Gunnarsson scored his first World Championship goal for the Swedes.
"Maybe it wasn't our best game, but we won it and now we're looking forward to the quarterfinal," said Swedish forward Loui Eriksson.
The French players left he tournament with their heads held high, despite the loss.
"Maybe in the next game we'll tie them. After the last game, we were disappointed, and didn't want to finish the tournament getting smoked in all games. We wanted to prove that we belonged here," said Baptiste Amar, one of France's three best players in the tournament.
The others awarded were goaltender Fabrice Lhenry, and forward Pierre Edouard Bellamare.
The start of the game was a nightmare for the French. First Kristian Huselius carried the puck into the French zone, and he beat Fabrice Lhenry with a slapshot high on the glove side at 1:33. Lhenry didn’t even move.
At 4:26, Huselius sent a long pass along the blueline to Johnny Oduya, who fired a slapshot which Marcus Nilson deflected to the roof of the net, from just outside the crease for 2-0.
A minute and a half later, the Swedes were at it again. This time on the power play, Nilson had the puck deep in the French zone. He got the puck to Dick Tärnström to the blue line, and another slapshot gave the Swedes a 3-0 lead, beating Lhenry low on the glove side at 5:56.
France got into penalty trouble early in the second period when the team played with six skaters, and got a team penalty at 20:53.
During the power play, Calle Gunnarsson tiptoed into the slot, Tony Mårtensson sent the puck inside the French box, and Gunnarsson sent it in to give Sweden a 4-0 lead at 21:28. The goal was Gunnarsson’s first career goal in the World Championship. Magnus Johansson picked up the puck as well as the other assist.
Some two minutes later, Sweden had a turnover on the French blueline. France’s Anthoine Lussier outskated Oduya for the puck, then lifted it past Swedish goaltender Stefan Liv to get France on the scoreboard for the first time in the game at 23:21.
Then it was Sweden’s turn to take back-to-back penalties, giving France a chance to get back into the game. The first power play was goalless, but when Marcus Nilson got a penalty for holding, Team France needed just 18 seconds to send the puck into the net.
Kevin Hecquefeuille fired the puck to the slot, where it stopped at Yorick Treille’s skate. But Pierre Edouard Bellemare was there, and his wrist shot beat Liv high on the glove side at 29:25.
But then the Swedes picked up the pace again. Niklas Persson and Johan Åkerman played the puck to Johnny Oduya, who fired a wrist shot from the blueline. The puck found its way to the net through a lot of traffic in front of Lhnery to make it 5-2 at 30:55.
The French refused to give up, and they got their chance a few minutes later when Johan Andersson was in the penalty box for tripping. The elder of the Treille brothers, Sacha, drove to the net and deflected Francois Rozenthal’s hard and accurate pass into the Swedish net at 36:41.
France started the third period with a power play, but it turned into a 5-on-3 power play for Sweden when Yorick Treille and Lussier found themselves in the penalty box for high sticking and slashing, respectively. Treille had barely made it out of the box when Kenny Jönsson deflected Anton Strålman’s slapshot pass into the French net, at 45:40, to seal the final score.
France leaves the tournament after Qualification Round, but David Henderson has an optimistic view on the future of French hockey.
"We're happy with the result, being able to stay up after the first round. The game against Latvia wasn't good, but we did play two great games, against the US and Sweden. Scoring three goals against Sweden was unheard of for France. Our young guys are growing into their roles and they're getting ready to step up now," he said.
For Sweden, next up is a quarterfinal game against the Czech Republic, the third-seeded team in Group F.