Team Canada's world hockey championship is off to a rough start after a stunning 3-2 shootout loss to France.
Even though it took a shootout, the defeat at Chizhovka-Arena in Minsk, Belarus stands out as one of Canada's more embarrassing losses in recent history at this tournament. It's just the second time Canada has lost to France, the last coming in regulation in 1995.
"It's good to have adversity early, it tells your team just how hard it's going to be and France played a very strong game," Canadian coach Dave Tippett said. "They capitalized on their power play and they got the extra point in the shootout, so congratulations to them."
The two latest matchups between these teams at the IIHF World Hockey Championship ended in 7-2 and 9-1 victories for Canada in 2012 and 2011, respectively. Canada entered the 2014 tournament 8-1 all-time against France.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare scored the shootout-winner for France.
Stephane Da Costa, a part-timer with the Ottawa Senators, had each of France's regulation power-play goals.
Brayden Schenn and Erik Gudbranson scored for Canada.
Former NHL goaltender Cristobal Huet shined in net for France. James Reimer was saddled with the loss for Canada.
"I think we made a few mistakes, but that's to be expected when you're kind of rusty and coming back and so we're going to get better every game and we'll be better next game," said Reimer, who finished with 26 saves.
France starts strong
Reimer was tested plenty in the early going, stopping a point-blank attempt from Dallas Stars forward Antoine Roussel short-handed three minutes in and turning French captain Laurent Meunier away a bit later. His best save of the first period came at the 11-minute mark on Da Costa's big windup from the right faceoff circle.
Da Costa broke through near the end of the period with Canada's Alex Burrows in the penalty box for tripping. After defenceman Yohann Auvitu's point shot hit Reimer in the pads, the puck bounced out to the Ottawa Senators minor-leaguer, who snapped it in at the 17:03 mark to give France a 1-0 lead.
It didn't take long for Canada to respond. Nathan MacKinnon drew a hooking penalty on Meunier with 35.4 seconds left in the first period, then Cody Hodgson fed Schenn for a power-play goal with 16.2 left to tie it.
Canada came close to taking the lead a couple of times in the second period, no closer than when Morgan Rielly got a shot off from the right faceoff circle that Huet snagged with his glove at 11:46.
Turnovers, penalties hurt Canada
Turnovers by young defencemen Tyler Myers and Erik Gudbranson brought some danger for Canada, but each time Reimer was challenged he came up big. With the seconds ticking away before intermission, Reimer made a big stop on Bellemare to get through the first 39 seconds of a five-on-three penalty kill.
Canada killed off the remaining 28 seconds of the five-on-three early in the second before Troy Brouwer took another slashing penalty just 11 seconds later.
Gudbranson gave Canada the lead 10:42 into the third period on a goal that was confirmed by video review. Gudbranson's shot from between the faceoff circles hit the left post and went in off Huet.
Da Costa scored again for France at 13:35, lifting a backhander over a sprawling Reimer to ignite cheers from an anti-Canada, pro-underdog France crowd at Chizhovka-Arena. It was a power-play goal as Jason Garrison was off for slashing and came right after defenceman Braydon Coburn's turnover.
Tippett pointed to turnovers and penalties as the primary culprit for one of Canada's worst losses in the past decade or so.
"It's how costly they are to you when you're playing a team that is just playing not to lose because every time you turn the puck over or take a penalty, they're just waiting for that advantage," he said. "They're just waiting for you to make a mistake and they feel like that's when they can make up for the discrepancy, possibly, in talent."