Sweden swamps France with early surge
by Andy Potts|20 MAY 2023
Fabian Zetterlund (#49) accepts the congratulations of his team-mates after scoring on France at the 2023 IIHF World Championship in Tampere, Finland.
With four goals from their first seven shots, the Swedes brushed aside France to remain undefeated in Tampere. Fabian Zetterlund led the scoring with two goals, Henrik Tommernes added three more assists to his four-point game against Hungary, and there were further tallies from Par Lindholm and Jonatan Berggren in a 4-0 verdict for the Tre Kronor.

"We got a nice start to the game," said Tommernes. "We scored four goals pretty quick, but at the same time we didn't play that well. In the first period Lars [Johansson] saved us a lot of times. But the second and third was a solid game."

However, France's Tim Bozon was not impressed with his team's start. "We were slow. We were sloppy," he lamented. "We didn't have our legs. We turned pucks over. We didn't battle hard. The first period, that cost us the game right there."

The French had a hard time against the top defence in the competition, and rarely threatened to add to the two goals Sweden allowed in its first four games. Lars Johansson posted his second shut-out of the competition, stopping 15 shots to frustrate les Bleus.

Prior to Saturday’s game, Sweden confirmed that there would be no additions to the roster. That means no place for William Nylander, with head coach Sam Hallam telling journalists he is happy with the players already here in Tampere.

Those players seem pretty happy too, and wrapped up this game in an impressive first period. It took less than two minutes to open the scoring. Par Lindholm managed to redirect the puck through Julian Junca’s fivehole even as he fell to the ice.

Then Zetterlund took over. The San Jose Shark was making his third appearance at this tournament and led the Swedish offence. He warmed up with an effort off the bar, then got onto a Jonathan Pudas stretch pass to double the lead midway through the session. 

Up to now, Sweden’s power play had not made much impact in the tournament. Today, though, the first two opportunities produced two goals. Jonatan Berggren enjoyed a slice of good fortune when his no-look backhand feed across the crease cannoned off a French skate and into the net. Then Zetterlund got his second of the night when he finished a nifty passing move involving Oscar Lindberg and Lucas Raymond.

"Finally, I was able to score at this level," Zetterlund smiled after the game.

That gave Sweden four goals from just seven shots and persuaded French head coach Philippe Bozon to replace Junca with rookie Quentin Papillon. The 26-year-old, who played for Mulhouse in last season’s Ligue Magnus, helped steady the French ship in the middle frame, stopping the 11 shots that he faced in a goalless session. Ultimately he left the game with his goal intact after turning away 22 shots.

For France, the difficulty was generating offence. Sweden had only allowed two goals in four games before tonight and the defence remained as miserly as ever. Apart from a very early chance for Louis Boudon and a breakaway from Kevin Bozon in the first period, there were few moments of real danger for Johansson and his yellow-clad colleagues.

The absence of Alexandre Texier, who left the game during the first period due to illness, did not help France. Nor did the non-availability of veteran team captain Sacha Treille. Valentin Claireaux took the 'C' for the night, but admitted that missing players hit Les Bleus hard. "We're a small team," he said. "Every time someone is missing, no matter who it is, we have to battle double."

With the game effectively settled in the first period, it was difficult for either team to maintain its intensity. The third period produced little drama at either end, although Zetterlund had the puck in the net for a possible hat-trick goal. However, it didn’t take long for a video review to confirm that he kicked a bouncing puck past Papillon and the play was called back.

Silfverberg couldn't help but smile at Zetterlund's football-style finish. "It was cool, but maybe it was pretty obvious. He should have tried to hide it a little bit better!" he said. "But Fabian's a big, energetic player, who always has a big smile on his face. To be able to see him get two goals tonight, and almost a third, obviously brings a lot of energy and happiness to the team. So I'm happy about it."