International Ice Hockey Federation

France edges Germany

France edges Germany

Fleury the shootout hero as French start strong

Published 07.05.2016 19:29 GMT+3 | Author Lucas Aykroyd
France edges Germany
ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - MAY 7: France's Valentin Claireaux #12 celebrates with Florian Chakiachvili #62 and Nicolas Ritz #25 after scoring Team France's second goal of the game during preliminary round action at the 2016 IIHF Ice Hockey Championship. (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/HHOF-IIHF Images)
In a hard-fought battle between the two co-hosts of the 2017 IIHF World Championship, France beat Germany 3-2 in a shootout in their Saturday tournament opener.

Damien Fleury scored the shootout winner, snapping the puck high to the glove side of German goalie Timo Pielmeier. German captain Marcel Goc got a final attempt, but was pokechecked by France's Cristobal Huet.

"It was good for me to score," said Fleury. "I had a lot of pressure since I wasn’t scoring a lot during training camp, so this goal was great for my confidence."

Working the kinks out, France prevailed despite taking a whopping three penalties for too many men on the ice.

It was a fine goaltending duel between Huet, the first Frenchman to hoist the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010, and Pielmeier, a former prospect of the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks. Germany outshot France 29-23.

In regulation time, Damien Raux and Valentin Claireaux scored for France.

Felix Schutz had a goal and an assist, and Tobias Rieder also scored for Germany. Philip Gogulla chipped in a pair of assists.

"It was a battle," Rieder said. "We couldn’t get much going early in the game, and made a lot of mistakes, especially in the first. That led to turnovers and odd-man rushes against. We have to clean that up in our game."

The Germans are looking to improve on their 10th place finish from last year. France came 12th in 2015.

The French have a tight-knit, hard-working team. But they lack scoring depth this year, missing key players like the injured Stephane Da Costa and Antoine Roussel, who's still in the NHL playoffs with the Dallas Stars. So this was a heartening start to the tournament against a traditional rival.

The tempo was hot and crazy right out of the gate.

France opened the scoring at 3:38 on a nice rush. Jordan Perret exploded down the right side and stickhandled through the faceoff circle before sending the puck over to Raux, who fired it into the half-empty net.

"It was good to start with a goal," said Claireaux. "It gives everybody extra energy."

Minutes later, Perret and captain Laurent Meunier nearly converted again on a similar play. France’s Sacha Treille nailed top German defender Christian Ehrhoff with a big hit behind the net.

The Germans got momentum due to poor French discipline. Huet shone with his aggressive style during four consecutive German power plays, including a late-period 5-on-3. The 40-year-old netminder challenged, sprawled and dove to preserve the early 1-0 lead.

Huet couldn’t hold off the Germans indefinitely. Just 26 seconds into the second period, Gogulla’s power play point drive bounced off Huet's right pad straight to Rieder, who had lots of twine to shoot at.

It was Pielmeier’s turn to shine during a subsequent French 5-on-3. He came across to stone Teddy Da Costa on a golden opportunity from point blank range. Rough stuff ensued when Pierre-Edouard Bellemare went hard to the net and fell on top of the German goalie.

At 16:50, Schutz broke the deadlock when he swooped in, grabbed the puck in the slot and used French defenceman Benjamin Dieude-Fauvel as a screen, firing it past Huet’s left pad.

Claireaux tied it up at 19:50 of the second. Gregory Beron floated one from from the blue line and Claireaux raised his stick to deflect it down through Pielmeier’s legs. The play was video-reviewed and the goal stood.

In the scoreless third period, Huet stretched out to rob Patrick Reimer from in tight with a stellar right pad save. The Russian crowd at Yubileiny urged on the French during a power play with chants of "Shaibu!"

The French got a huge man advantage opportunity in overtime when defenceman Moritz Muller was sent off for closing his hand on the puck at 1:12. But they couldn't capitalize as defenders like Ehrhoff and Denis Reul courageously blocked shots.

"It was a tough game," said Claireaux. "We’ve been playing strong defensively, and we were lucky to score a couple of goals, but Huet has been playing really strong in the net. It was good to get a win tonight."

This was the tenth World Championship meeting between France and Germany, dating back to 1934, and it’s a very even rivalry. The result improved France’s all-time record to five wins and five losses.

The 2017 IIHF World Championship will take place in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany (5-21 May).

 

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