Denmark tops France in overtime
by Lucas AYKROYD|14 MAY 2023
The Danes celebrate after the opening power play goal by Nikolaj Ehlers (#24) in a 4-3 overtime victory over France at the 2023 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship in Tampere, Finland.
photo: © International Ice Hockey Federation / Andrea Cardin
Patrick Russell notched the power-play winner at 1:43 of overtime as Denmark defeated France 4-3 in Group A action. The French rallied twice to tie it up in the second period but couldn't take the lead. Coach Heinz Ehlers’ Danes remain unbeaten with two straight wins.

Mikkel Boedker, though, summed up the Danish feeling afterwards: "Not the best game we've played. We didn't control the puck well enough. We struggled in our own zone to get it out and we didn't get any momentum in there."

In overtime, French defenceman Florian Chakiachvili tripped up Nicklas Jensen as he stickhandled to the net. On the ensuing man advantage, Russell beat French goalie Sebastian Ylonen high to the glove side.

"It’s four-on-three, there’s a good amount of ice out there," said Russell, a 30-year-old winger for Linkopings HC. "I got it back up, felt the D was a little bit out of position so I just tried to take the shot. That’s how I’ve been scoring goals on the power play, so I’ve just got to keep doing that."

The red-hot Danish power play capitalized three times and has totalled five goals in two games.

Nikolaj Ehlers scored again with the man advantage. He had two power play goals in the opening 3-1 win over Hungary. The Winnipeg Jets ace now has the same number of PP goals (three) as he had in an injury-marred 2022-23 NHL campaign (38 points in 45 games).

"I think we have a shooting mentality," said Boedker. "We have good players on both power plays. I think obviously the first power play unit is strong. They play the puck really well to each other. They move it to the open guy and then you've got Nik shooting. So it's pretty simple, but it's efficient and we don't try and overdo things."

Anthony Rech stepped up with a goal and an assist for France.

Danish goalie Frederik Dichow won his goaltending duel with France’s Sebastian Ylonen. Shots favoured France 26-21.

It was a character effort for coach Philippe Bozon's team, which debuted with a 2-1 victory over Austria on captain Sacha Treille’s overtime winner.

""We are really proud about it," said Rech. "We were in a tough position after the first period. We lost our mindset. I guess it was not our game. And we had a good discussion between the first and the second. Five-on-five, we were the better team. So we wanted to show them we can play against them."

Denmark has stayed in the top division since returning in 2003, and finished ninth last year. The French were relegated in 2019 after a dramatic 4-3 overtime loss to Great Britain, but came back last year with a 12th-place finish.

On Sunday, the Danish offence sprang to life with quick, crisp puck movement on their first power play. Ehlers scored on a wrister from the left point through traffic at 8:27.

Tempers flared when French assistant Valentin Claireaux crumpled Ehlers with a hit from behind near the side boards. The play was video-reviewed and Claireaux was ejected with a five-minute major and game misconduct. However, Markus Lauridsen also incurred a roughing minor, so the teams went to 4-on-4 before Denmark could enjoy the man advantage.

“Enjoy” was indeed the operative word as Boedker made it 2-0 at 18:03. The veteran ex-NHLer’s initial shot from the right faceoff circle was blocked by France’s Hugo Gallet, but Boedker followed up and fired it home.

"You're always concerned when you see your best player go down," Boedker said. "Thankfully he was okay. I think it was a dirty hit, and they got it right. It was a five-minute penalty. So that was nice. We scored after that, so that was important."

Undaunted, the French came out hard in the second period and cut the deficit to 2-1 at 5:48. On the rush, Rech cut in off the right side and backhanded a cross-ice pass to Guillaume LeClerc, who scored into the open side.

Rech tied the game at 8:29. The 30-year-old, who played 29 games for TPS Turku this season, stole the puck in the Danish zone, raced off on a breakaway, and scored with a high backhand move.

"Their D dangled me before," said Rech. "It was a little bit stressful. But I was lucky. He broke his stick. On the breakaway, I was initially thinking to shoot, but then I decided to go for the dangle. It worked, so I was really happy."

"In the second period I don’t think we touched the puck in the first 10 minutes," Ehlers said. "We didn’t play the way that we wanted. We let them have the puck way too much and let them make the plays they wanted to make."

At 10:34, the Danes answered back with an unassisted goal of their own. Nick Olesen picked off a giveaway by defenceman Lucien Onno in the French zone and blew a slapper past Ylonen for a 3-2 lead.

With just 29 seconds left in the middle frame, Justin Addamo whacked in the rebound from Jules Boscq's long shot to tie it up again.

The third period saw France vying for the go-ahead goal as Markus Lauridsen went to the sin bin two more times. Ylonen foiled Morten Poulsen on a nice chance with two minutes left in regulation.

Next up on Tuesday, France takes on Hungary, while Denmark battles Austria.

"I think with this kind of team and the way we play, we can play against anyone and that’s the spirit we’re going to have," Treille said. "We’ll try to go out and win every game. That’s how we have to think right now."

This was just the fourth Denmark-France game in World Championship history. France romped 6-2 in the first meeting in 2014 with four-point games from Antoine Roussel and Stephane da Costa. Denmark won 5-4 on Frederik Storm’s penalty shootout goal in 2019 and 3-0 on Sebastian Dahm’s 19-save shutout in 2022.
France vs Denmark - 2023 IIHF WM