Swiss top fractious French
Swiss top fractious French
First win for Switzerland in grudge match
The cross-border rivals combined for 75 penalty minutes, 63 taken by France. If they weren’t going at each other physically, angry words were being exchanged.
This was an important three points for the Swiss, who fell 4-3 to Austria in a shootout to open the 2015 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. France has dropped two straight in regulation time.
"We didn't have the start we wanted last game against Austria, so we felt this was a must-win game, and we're happy we won," said Josi. "We'll celebrate for ten minutes and then put it behind us."
Josi, Switzerland's top defenceman, also assisted on Dennis Hollenstein's opening goal. Reto Suri added a single, and Damien Brunner had two assists.
Damien Raux replied for the French.
Number one French goalie Cristobal Huet saw plenty of rubber as the Swiss outshot France 35-20. Backup Swiss netminder Leonardo Genoni was victorious in his first tournament start, just the fourth of his World Championship career dating back to 2011.
The French buzzed the net on their first power play with Swiss captain Mark Streit off for holding, but couldn’t find the range.
Both teams showed poor discipline in the opening stanza. Hollenstein picked up a couple of minors, and France's Sacha Treille was ejected with a five-minute major for an elbow to the head of Timo Helbling, who was left bleeding.
French KHL star Stephane Da Costa left the game in the first period with a knee injury and did not return. The extent of the injury is unknown, and it is not clear whether he will play in France's next game.
With 4:24 remaining in the first period, Hollenstein put Switzerland on the board with the man advantage. He busted over the blue line past the French defence, corralling a high pass from Brunner and whacking a high one that squeezed under Huet’s right arm.
France vainly argued that the play might have been offside. An infuriated Antoine Roussel received a game misconduct for unsportsmanlike conduct after he smacked the glass and hit a camera inside the penalty box.
The French were lucky to escape with just a 1-0 deficit in the first, as the Swiss held a 15-5 edge in shots.
Switzerland’s two Nashville Predators teamed up beautifully for their second goal at 1:36 of the middle frame. Kevin Fiala cut into the Swiss zone, turned on the right side boards, and found Josi coming down the middle. The defenceman carried the puck in and outwaited a sprawling Huet before lifting it into the gaping cage.
"Fiala made a great play and I had a lot of time," said Josi. "I tried to wait out the goaltender, and luckily it went in."
The chippiness continued a couple of minutes later as France’s Damien Fleury was sent off for taking a poke at Fiala.
Huet held down the fort when Andres Ambuhl and Matthias Bieber rushed in on a 2-on-1 with about six minutes left in the second period. Genoni made a nice close-in save on Valentin Claireaux with 3:28 left.
At 8:31 of the third, the French got some life when the puck squirted free from a goalmouth scrum to Raux, who backhanded it in to cut the lead to 2-1. Was a comeback possible?
"After two periods we should have been up by three or four goals," said Streit. "That didn't happen. Then they scored one, and all of a sudden, it's a tight game."
Huet was pulled for a sixth attacker with 1:05 left, but it was fruitless. Suri rounded out the scoring with an empty-netter.
"If we had lost this game tonight, it would've been tough to make the quarter-finals, so it's a big win for us," said Streit. "It wasn't pretty at all, but we got the three points. Maybe next game we won't grip our sticks as much as we did tonight."
The result improved Switzerland's all-time World Championship record against France to 10 wins and four losses.
On Tuesday, Switzerland has another rivalry game against Germany. The French will look to get into the win column versus Austria that day.
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