HELSINKI – France grabbed an early 2-0 first-period lead and never looked back en route to a 3-1 win over Austria in Sunday’s first game at Hartwall Arena.
Damien Fleury, Teddy Da Costa, and Julien Desrosiers scored for France.
Videos: Highlights, Post Game Interviews
"These are the games we have to win in this tournament, so this was a good first step," said France's Tim Bozon.
Thomas Vanek, Austria’s NHL scoring star, replied with his first goal of the tournament.
"France played a good game defensively," said Vanek. "They got those two early goals and we just don't have the firepower to come back from that. They buried their chances, we didn't."
The result could prove to be critical in the final standings. Newly promoted Austria will need all the points it can get in the fight against relegation, but has suffered two regulation losses so far. France is seeking to maintain its place in the elite division, where it’s competed since 2008.
French goalie Cristobal Huet bounced back nicely after allowing five goals against Slovakia in the opener. He made 35 saves, while Austria’s Bernhard Starkbaum had 23 stops.
Fleury opened the scoring for France on a breakaway for France, getting loose at his own blueline and racing in to fire the puck through Starkbaum’s pads at 3:36.
Just 41 seconds later, it was 2-0 France as Da Costa accepted a sweet Antoine Roussel centering pass from behind the goal line and zapped it top corner on the glove side.
The French couldn't convert on a pair of second-period power plays with the Austrians making mental errors. Huet denied Raphael Herburger on a breakaway with just over six minutes left in the middle frame.
A brilliant solo rush by Julien Desrosiers, who cut in off right wing into the slot past Gerhard Unterluggauer and roofed it stick side, made it 3-0 France at 17:50.
Vanek had a great chance to put Austria on the board in the last minute of the period, but his backhand deke went off the sprawling Huet’s right post.
"We had our chances in the second period, but couldn't score on them," admitted Austria's Markus Peintner.
Austria cut the deficit to 3-1 at 6:23 of the third period when Vanek was left unobstructed in the slot, teeing up a shot and then depositing his rebound in the open net.
Near the midway mark of the third, France's Pierre-Edouard Bellemare rang a shot off the inside of the post that was video-reviewed and ruled no goal.
Austria got a final chance to make it close when France's Yorick Treille was called for holding in the offensive zone, seconds after nearly setting up captain Laurent Meunier for a fourth goal. The Austrians pulled their goalie to make it a 6-on-4, but couldn't solve Huet despite some good flurries around his crease.
France’s next game is against host Finland on Monday. The Austrians play Latvia on Tuesday.
This was the seventh World Championship meeting between these two nations dating back to 1930. The all-time series is now tied at three wins, three losses and a tie apiece.