France blanks Austria
France blanks Austria
Huet gets first career Worlds shutout
On the power play with under 14 minutes to play, Fleury tipped Stephane Da Costa's one-timer from the left faceoff circle past Austrian netminder Bernhard Starkbaum's glove.
"I knew that when Stephane was going to take the one-timer I should go to the net, and I managed to tip it a little bit," said Fleury. "It was a good goal."
At 19:02, French captain Laurent Meunier added some insurance with an empty-netter.
Both teams opted for experience in goal for this crucial game, and Cristobal Huet came away victorious as France outshot Austria 29-23.
In a testament to perseverance, it was the 39-year-old netminder's first career World Championship shutout. This is his 11th tournament, trailing only the USSR's Vladislav Tretiak and Belarus's Andrei Mezin in that department (13).
This is a serious blow for the newly promoted Austrians. They opened the tournament promisingly with a 4-3 shootout upset against Switzerland, but then fell 6-1 to the Swedes.
"I thought we were the better team," said Michael Raffl, the only Austrian NHLer at this tournament. "If we get the first goal, we win that game. We didn't get any bounces. Then they score on the power play, and it's the worst game of our lives."
Due to the warm weather in Prague (a high of 27 C), a thin layer of fog was visible at ice level. And at times, it did seem that both teams were "skating in a fog" as they struggled to generate offence.
Shots were just 6-5 Austria in the first period, but both goalies had to stay alert in the early going. Nearing the seven-minute mark, Michael Raffl stickhandled in on Huet and launched a tricky backhander that the goalie gobbled up.
Halfway through the game, Austria came close to drawing first blood. From the side boards, Konstantin Komarek – who got the shootout winner against Switzerland – threw the puck on net and it dinged off the post to Huet’s left.
Shortly afterwards, during an Austrian power play, Huet allowed no rebound on a quality Michael Raffl shot from the high slot.
"We cycled, played a lot in their end, but you don't get rewarded for keeping the puck," said Raffl. "We have to shoot."
With just over two minutes left in the middle frame, Austria’s Rafael Rotter raced off on a partial breakaway, cutting around the French defence, but couldn’t get it past Huet.
Nearing the four-minute mark of the third, Julien Desrosiers's deft pass on the rush set up a Sacha Treille shot from the left faceoff circle that Starkbaum held for the whistle.
Trailing late in the game, the Austrians pushed for the equalizer, hitting the goal post and buzzing around the French net during a tripping minor to Antoine Roussel.
But at the final siren, the hills were not alive with the sound of music -- except for the French national anthem.
"We battled hard," said Raffl. "We played like mutineers, but we lost 1-0, basically, after that empty-net goal."
Historically, this has been a tight rivalry. The win improved France’s all-time record against Austria to four wins, one tie, and three losses, dating back to 1930.
The next opponent for both these nations is the host Czech Republic. France faces this big challenge on Thursday, while the Austrians are off until Friday.
"We have to play with confidence," said Fleury. "I think we have a lot of players who can play with the puck. We need to relax and play the game."
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