Swedes dance with France

Tre Kronor opens ketchup bottle, fries the French.

06.05.2008
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Quebec City Quebec Canada

Sweden's Nicklas Backstrom looks for another scoring opportunity. Photo: IIHF/HHoF/Matthew Manor

QUEBEC CITY – The 6-5 win over Belarus was supposed to scare the Swedes and unleash the hidden powers of this team. Swedes had better hope that the team can do even better than in the game against France, even if it came out with a more than comfortable 9-0 win.

Both coaches had made changes to their lineups after the teams’ first games. Sweden had added defenseman Alexander Edler and center Michael Holmqvist to the roster, while Stefan Liv replaced Mikael Tellqvist in goal.

France’s coach Dave Henderson had given Cristobal Huet the day off, saving him for the team’s all-important game against Belarus on Wednesday, making Fabrice Lhenry the French starting goaltender.

Both goalies can be pleased with their play in the first period. Liv faced seven shots and saved them all, Lhenry turned away all 13 Swedish shots.

"Our plan was to keep the game close, hopefully at 0-0 for as long as possible, maybe even steal a goal," said France's coach Dave Henderson after the game.

The five penalties given in the first period made it mostly a contest in power play, giving both teams a chance to take control of the game. However, Sweden’s best chance came on a French power play when Nils Ekman fed Rickard Wallin whose shot Lhenry blocked easily.

The French first line with Yorick Treille, Laurent Meunier, and Sebastien Bordelaeu created several chances but couldn’t capitalize.

"We have to be better prepared for the games in the future. Tonight, we weren't and the first period was difficult for us," said Kenny Jonsson.

"Also, when you always meet five defending players, it's not easy to get the scoring chances," he said.

Sweden got its big chance halfway through the second period when it played a rare 4-on-3 powerplay for over a minute. Quarterbacked by Kenny Jonsson and Nicklas Backstrom, the Swedes created several good chances but Lhenry stood tall. Just as the French had killed the penalties Tony Martensson crossed the blue line and took a slapshot right after the blue line and scored 1-0.

Unfortunately for France, they couldn’t stay out of the penalty box, giving Sweden another 4-on-3 power play – and the keys to the game – with 9:55 remaining in the second period. The Swedes’ seventh powerplay of the night finally clicked when Patric Hornqvist one-timed Fredrik Warg’s pass behind Lhenry.

That seemed to unlock the Swedes and discourage the French who had fought bravely up until then. At 36:16, Mattias Weinhandl made it 3-0 with a quick wrist shot. With 17 seconds remaining. Niclas Wallin scored 4-0 on a one-timer from Tony Martensson from behind the net.

"We knew that we would have to be patient, and stay out of the penalty box," said Nicklas Backstrom.

"Fortunately, they took a few of penalties," he added.

Sweden outshot France 23-4 in the second period.

In the third period, Nicklas Backstrom scored 5-0 with a failed wrist shot, five minutes later Alexander Edler thanked coach Gustafsson for the ice time by scoring 6-0. Robert Nilsson made it 7-0 just a minute later, forcing Dave Henderson to pull Lhenry and send Huet in for the last ten minutes.

"Lhenry was outstanding for the first thirty minutes, then he got a little tired so I decided to take him out, probably a little too late," said Henderson.

Two minutes later, Huet had to pick up the puck from the net. 8-0 for Sweden by Kenny Jonsson. Nicklas Backstrom rounded it up to 9-0 with less than one minute remaining.

"We were a little sloppy, and made a lot of mistakes early in the game, but France played well, too, their defensive style of play didn't make things easy for us," Backstrom said.

Sweden's next game is against Switzerland for first place in Group A. France meets Belarus in a high stakes game. The loser of that matchup will end up in the relegation round.

RISTO PAKARINEN

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