HELSINKI – Patrick Sharp had a goal and four assists to lead Canada to an easy 7-2 win over France. Canada (2-1) took one more step in solidifying a quarter-finals berth with the win while France (1-2) is a longshot to advance past the round robin.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jamie Benn contributed two goals and an assist each, and Benn was a game-best +4 as well.
“It was a good rebound game for us,” captain Ryan Getzlaf said, referring to the team’s 5-4 overtime loss to the U.S. two days ago. “We did a lot of things well that we wanted to do. Once again, it’s about progression, and we want to get better every day.
“It was tough,” said Brian Henderson, who scored one of France’s two goals. “Canada is a really good team, and we knew it, but we went into the game to play hard, and play our best. You never know what’s going to happen.”
Canada has still lost only once in competition to France, that a 4-1 decision in 1995. Besides that blemish is a perfect 3-0 record at the Olympics and an 8-0-1 record at the Worlds dating back to 1931.
“Our focus wasn’t trying to fill the net but to play well defensively, play the way the coaches want us to in our own end,” Sharp offered. “I think we did that, and it resulted in a lot of offence the other way.”
Canada got on the board just 1:59 into the game on a turnover inside the France blue line. Sharp found teenager Nugent-Hopkins in the slot, and he drilled a shot to the far side of goalie Fabrice Lhenry to open the scoring.
Midway through the period Sharp got a goal of his own on the power play, banging home a quick shot from the top of the crease.
Benn got the next two goals for Canada, the first from in close and the second on a bullet shot through a screen.
France got its first goal thanks to a bad giveaway by Duncan Keith. Brian Henderson picked off the weak pass and beat Devan Dubnyk with a quick shot. Dubnyk was making his first career start having been a third goalie in 2010 and playing only briefly in relief last year.
The second period was uninspiring if not altogether lethargic. With the game in hand, Canada stopped trying to score, but it got one more anyway thanks to Jordan Eberle on the power play. He snapped a loose puck over the fallen Lhenry to make it 5-1.
Just 30 seconds later, though, France replied after a gaffe by Dubnyk, whose poor clearing was intercepted and led to a goal by Alexandre Rouleau from the slot.
The Sharp-Nugent-Hopkins combination worked again midway through the third, Nugent-Hopkins finishing with another nice shot, this one high over Lhenry’s shoulder.
The Anaheim connection notched the seventh goal, Ryan Getzlaf finding Corey Perry in front with a nice pass.