It was another close call for Tre Kronor, but a two-goal outburst just 17 seconds apart late in the second period propelled Sweden to a 2-1 win over France.
Right before getting the 1-0 lead through a Joel Lundqvist deflection, Sweden looked increasingly frustrated as France exploited more opportunities to counter-attack. Oscar Moller scored Sweden's second goal, which counted as the game-winner.
"First of all, we’re happy with the win, of course. France is a good team, and they’ve played well so far in this tournament," said Lundqvist, who is Tre Kronor's captain. "But we know we’ve got to play better later on here, so we have some stuff to work on."
Sweden's Niclas Burstrom made his debut on defence, finishing the game with a +2 rating. He was named Sweden's best player of the game.
Stephane Da Costa scored France's goal with 15 minutes remaining. But France could not pull off another come-from-behind upset, like they did against Slovakia, this night. Damien Fleury came incredibly close with a last-second chance in close, but Anders Nilsson made the crucial save to preserve the win.
"There is frustration right now," said France's Baptiste Amar right after the game. "I thought we should have come back at the end. We had really good chances. It was a little bit the same situation against Slovakia, and we hung on and were able to come back. After the second period we told ourselves: ‘It’s the same situation today – down 2-0 after two periods. Why not come back? Let’s keep on going, trying to put pressure on those guys.’ It didn’t turn our way tonight, but that’s the way it is."
Florian Hardy had his first start in the French net, replacing Cristobal Huet. He fininshed the game with 32 saves.
After four games, Sweden has 11 points in the Group A. France has five.
The game started slowly as and the first real scoring chance did not come until ten minutes into the contest. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare joined a rush, picked up a pass from Anthony Guttig and one-timed a low shot towards the Swedish net, but Nilsson showed some quick lateral mobility.
Later in the first, both team had chances to play with the man advantage but neither team was able to capitalize. Again, it was Bellemare, who had the best chance with a one-timed attempt, this time from the right faceoff circle on France’s second power play of the night.
As the game went past the halfway mark, Sweden started taking more chances offensively. That almost backfired as France’s Antoine Roussel went on a rush towards a lone Tre Kronor defenceman and fired a shot from the slot. Nilsson deflected it wide.
"I don’t think we expected an easy game," Sweden's Gustav Nyquist said. "We’ve seen how they played over the tournament here. They’ve played great. They’re a well-structured team. They’re dangerous when they get to counterattack. They’re fast with the puck, and they create a lot of chances. They get a lot of 3-on-2’s and 2-on-1’s, stuff like that. We knew they were going to be a good team, and I think they showed that today."
Eventually, Tre Kronor got the desired the 1-0 lead when captain Joel Lundqvist deflected a heavy slap shot from Dennis Rasmussen past Hardy.
"It felt really good," said Lundqvist. "It was at an important time in the game, when it was tied. It started off with a good hit, and then I just went in front of the net and took the puck. It was nice."
And only 17 seconds later, Oscar Moller skated into the slot and made it 2-0 after picking up a pass from Joakim Lindstrom. Moller wasted little time before firing it into the net, high on Hardy’s stick hand side.
Five minutes into the third, France cut the deficit in half when Tim Erixon’s pass up ice was intercepted by Stephane Da Costa, who made a quick turn to skate in alone on Anders Nilsson, deking the Swedish goalie to make it a 2-1 game.
After killing off another pair of penalties, France went on the attack looking to tie the game. But their hopes for a tie was dealt a tough blow when Bellemare was sent to the box for tripping. On the power play, Sweden put heavy pressure on the French net, but Hardy came up big, giving France a chance for a final push.
And they did get a glorious chance to tie it, when Damien Fleury got a chance in close on Nilsson in the dying seconds. France called for a penalty shot after Mattias Ekholm hooked Fleury, but the referee decided that a two-minute major was the right call.
On team Sweden, defenceman Erik Gustavsson and goaltender Joacim Eriksson did not dress for the game due to illness.
Sweden takes on Slovakia tomorrow night, while France will face Norway Saturday.