Canada blanks host Sweden at hockey worlds
France stuns Russia
Canada's Mike Smith earned his first win of the world hockey championship with a 33-save performance as Canada blanked host Sweden 3-0 Thursday in Stockholm.
Smith, who plays for Phoenix in the NHL, was at his best in the third period with 17 saves.
Steven Stamkos, Luke Schenn and Jordan Staal scored for Canada. Matt Read contributed two assists in front of an announced sellout of 12,500 at Globe Arena.
Jhonas Enroth of the Buffalo Sabres made 22 saves on 25 shots for Sweden in the loss. Trailing 3-0 with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game, Sweden replaced him with Jacob Markstrom.
Canada (3-0-1) vaulted over Sweden into second spot in the Stockholm pool with the victory. Unbeaten Switzerland led with 11 points followed by Canada with 10 and the Swedes with nine. Norway was fourth with six.
Canada faces Belarus (1-2) on Friday for a second game in as many days. The Czech Republic (1-2-1) got by Denmark 2-1 in a shootout, but remained fifth in the Stockholm pool with five points.
France shocked Russia 2-1 in the Helsinki pool with Antoine Roussel of the Dallas Stars scored winning goal for the French in the second period.
The Russians remained tied with the United States for first at nine points each. Finland was second with eight points ahead of France and Slovakia tied with six apiece. Latvia downed the Slovaks 5-3 on Thursday.
The top four teams in each pool of eight qualify for the quarter-finals in each city. Canada lost quarter-final game the last three years at the world championship despite finishing first in its group the last two.
Ranked No. 4 in the world, Sweden was No. 5 Canada's highest-ranked opponent yet.
The Swedes had been getting their feet back under them with three wins after an opening loss to the Swiss.
The host team is expecting the arrival of Vancouver Canucks forwards Daniel and Henrik Sedin and defenceman Alex Edler in the next few days. Those players were still in Vancouver on Thursday following the elimination of the Canucks from the NHL's first round of playoffs.
Canada's special teams were the keys to the victory Thursday. The Canadians scored first with a power-play goal by Stamkos and held the Swedes scoreless on three chances with an extra attacker.
The Canadians had all the momentum in a two-goal second period. Their multi-pronged attacked poked holes in Sweden's defence and left Enroth exposed.
Read fed Schenn from the opposite boards when the Philadelphia Flyers defenceman took three strides in from the blue-line, and Schenn beat Enroth with a high shot 55 seconds into the second period.
Jordan Staal scored his first goal of the tournament at the 13:00 mark. He swept puck past Enroth on an odd-man rush with Ryan O'Reilly to give Canada a three-goal cushion heading into the third period.
Canada's power play was an anemic 14 per cent heading into the game, but the opening goal at 8:56 was their best shift with a man advantage yet.
Justin Schultz, Brian Campbell and Claude Giroux snapped the puck around the offensive zone with precision and Stamkos finished it with a one-timer from his right knee.
The Canadians couldn't turn their even-strength chances into a second goal in the first period though as Enroth stopped Stamkos, Matt Duchene, Taylor Hall and Eric Staal on juicy opportunities.
France stuns Russia
Defending champion Russia was upset 2-1 by France, which shocked a team dominated by NHL and KHL players at hockey worlds on Thursday.
Russia lost to a group of mainly French league players, who ended its 13-match winning streak at the world championship.
"It's so big for French hockey, it's hard to describe," France coach Dave Henderson said.
France wasn't good enough to play Russia or the Soviet Union until 1992. It had lost all six previous games, the last 7-2 in 2009.
All the goals on Thursday were scored in the middle period.
Alexander Perezhogin gave Russia the lead at 6:57, shortly after teammate Aleksandr Radulov missed a penalty shot. France forward Damien Fleury evened the score at 9:52 with a slap shot. Antoine Roussel, France's lone NHL player, scored the winner at 16:48 when he broke in from the left and backhanded through Vasili Koshechkin's legs.
Both teams fielded their third-string goalkeepers. France's Florian Hardy finished with 28 saves, and Koshechkin 17.
"It was my first start, an unbelievably good result for us," Hardy said. "I don't know what to say, I'm so happy. When I watched the clock with five minutes to play, I thought that this is for real, that it is possible to win.
"All the team played an unbelievable game defensively. When the Russian player took the penalty shot and I stopped it, I just followed the puck and that was it."
France's second win in four games gives it a good chance of staying in the premier group at the worlds and an outside chance of making the quarterfinals with a top-four finish in its group. It still has to play the United States, Latvia and Germany.
In Stockholm, the Czech Republic beat Denmark 2-1 after a shootout, with Zbynek Irgl scoring on his team's fifth and sixth shots.
Zbynek Michalek scored in the last period for the Czechs and Morten Poulsen tied the game with four minutes to go.