Canada’s win over France was the latest against a country not regarded as an international power in the sport. Canada (3-1) also beat Great Britain and Slovakia after falling against Finland on the opening day of the tournament.
France (0-3-1) did give Canada a bit of a scare, narrowing the deficit to 3-2 in the third period after falling behind 3-0 in the first. But goals by Anthony Mantha, his second of the game. and Mark Stone restored Canada’s three-goal lead.
Mantha opened the scoring for Canada on a 5-on-3 power play with a slap shot past France goalie Henri-Corentin Buysse. Darnell Nurse and Anthony Cirelli also scored first-period goals for Canada, which outshot France 16-2 in the opening 20 minutes and 46-23 overall.
“I really liked our first period,” Canada coach Alain Vigneault said. “In the second we got a little bit loose defensively and a little loose with our puck management, which led to some good opportunities on (France’s) part.
“They got that quick goal at the beginning of the third, which made it a game, but I liked the way we responded after (France) made it 3-2. Our guys buckled down and there was obviously more urgency on our part.”
Mantha, a Detroit Red Wings forward from Longueuil, Que., leads Canada with five goals and nine points at the tournament.
“Back in Detroit we weren’t in a (NHL) playoff spot so we were just playing hard, and I think I just brought that energy and it’s been showing,” Mantha said.
Jonathan Marchessault added a pair of assists for Canada, while goaltender Carter Hart made 21 saves for Canada.
Damien Fleury and Anthony Rech scored for France.
Buysse was named the player of the game for his team. Forward Sean Couturier, who had one assist, was chosen as Canada’s top player.
Canada moved to the second place in Group A in Kosice with nine points, three behind leading Germany and one ahead of the United States in third.
The Canadians still have to face Germany, Denmark and the United States in their remaining preliminary-round games
“Obviously we weren’t as sharp tonight as we were in our last few games,” Mantha said. “We need to build off that and work hard next game. Germany is 4-0 right now so we know it’s going to be a hard game, but we have to be ready.”
In Group B, Gabriel Landeskog scored just 69 seconds into his first game at the tournament to kickstart Sweden’s 9-1 rout of Austria.
Landeskog, who also had two assists, only arrived in Bratislava on Thursday morning to join the two-time defending champion after his Colorado Avalanche were eliminated from the NHL playoffs.
William Nylander had a goal and an assist to join Russsia’s Nikita Kucherov atop the scoring chart with 10 points from three goals and seven assists.
With nine points from four games, the Swedes trail undefeated Russia and Switzerland in Group B by three points.
Finland plays Denmark in Group A later Thursday while the Czech Republic faces Latvia in Group B.