HELSINKI – The U.S. Men's National Team defeated France, 4-2, here today in preliminary round play of the 2013 International Ice Hockey Federation Men's World Championship and seized first place in Group H with its fourth win in five games.
"I thought we played a really solid game outside of the uncharacteristic penalty trouble we got into in the second period," said Joe Sacco, head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. "Both teams were coming off big victories -- France over Russia and ourselves over Finland -- and you never know how your team is going to respond. I liked the way we responded."
For the first time in five games, Team USA opened the scoring. Stephen Gionta (Rochester, N.Y./New Jersey Devils/Boston College) deflected Matt Carle's (Anchorage, Alaska/Tampa Bay Lightning/Univ. of Denver) point shot past goalie Cristobal Huet at 7:08 of the first period.
Bobby Butler (Marlborough, Mass./Nashville Predators/Univ. of New Hampshire) made it 2-0 on a tic-tac-toe passing play that incorporated Drew LeBlanc (Duluth, Minn./Chicago Blackhawks/St. Cloud State Univ.) and Tim Stapleton (La Grange, Ill./Dynamo Minsk/Univ. of Minnesota Duluth) at 17:17.
The U.S. got into penalty trouble near the midway point of the middle frame and France's Kevin Hecquefeuille cut the U.S. lead to 2-1 with a five-on-three power-play goal 8:24 into the second stanza. Despite a 25-10 shots-on-goal advantage through 40 minutes, the U.S. held just a 2-1 advantage.
Team USA was able to pull away from France with markers at 11:37 and 13:23 of the third period. Captain Paul Stastny (St. Louis, Mo./Colorado Avalanche/Univ. of Denver) tallied on a goalmouth scramble after Craig Smith (Madison, Wis./Nashville Predators/University of Wisconsin) fought off a defender on the end wall and got the puck to the front of the net, while David Moss (Livonia, Mich./Phoenix Coyotes/Univ. of Michigan) deflected a point shot from Justin Faulk (South St. Paul, Minn./Carolina Hurricanes/Univ. of Minnesota Duluth) on a power play.
France scored off a rebound with 1:30 left in the game to account for the 4-2 final.
Goaltender Ben Bishop (Denver, Colo./Tampa Bay Lightning/Univ. of Maine) made 15 saves to earn his third win in four starts while Huet stopped 32 shots for France.
Team USA's plays its sixth-of-seven preliminary round games tomorrow (May 12) vs. Germany. Faceoff is 4:15 p.m. local time (9:15 a.m. EDT). NBC Sports Network will televise the game on delay beginning at 10:30 a.m. EDT. It will be streamed live in the United States through NBC Sports Live Extra.