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Gionta scores as U.S. tops France

by Staff Writer / New Jersey Devils

The United States rode first-period goals by the New Jersey Devils' Stephen Gionta and Bobby Butler of the Nashville Predators to a 4-2 victory against France on Saturday in a preliminary-round game at the 2013 IIHF World Championship.

The Colorado Avalanche's Paul Stastny and David Moss of the Calgary Flames scored 1:46 apart in the third, and Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Ben Bishop stopped 15 of 17 shots in a game played at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland.

Former Chicago Blackhawks goalie Cristobal Huet stopped 32 of 36 shots in France's net.

"I thought we played a really solid game outside of the uncharacteristic penalty trouble we got into in the second period," U.S. coach Joe Sacco told USA Hockey. "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."

The victory temporarily pushed the U.S. past Finland and into first place in Group H. However, they slipped back to second after Finland beat Austria on Saturday. The U.S. is two points behind Finland, but has a game in hand, and also a win against the Finns.

"We look at the standings every morning to see where everyone is," Gionta told the IIHF website. "We know we have to take care of business, but we've put ourselves in a spot where we wanted to be before the tournament, which is to be in control of our own destiny."

The U.S. opened the scoring for the first time in the tournament when Gionta deflected a shot by Lightning defenseman Matthew Carle past France goalie Cristobal Huet 7:08 into the game. Gionta now has two goals in five games.

Then with 2:43 left, Butler finished a nifty passing play with former NHL forward Tim Stapleton and Drew LeBlanc of the Chicago Blackhawks to make it 2-0.

France scored the only goal of the second period when Kevin Hecquefeuille scored a 5-on-3 goal after Avalanche teammates Stastny and Erik Johnson were sent off for slashing 15 seconds apart.

Stastny atoned for his penalty midway through the third when he banged in a loose puck in the crease, and less than two minutes later, Moss deflected a shot by Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk past Huet to make it 4-1.

France's Yorick Treille closed the scoring when he knocked a rebound past Bishop with 90 seconds remaining.

The U.S. has two games left in the preliminary round, against Germany on Sunday and Slovakia on Tuesday. France, which is fifth in Group H, closes the preliminary round with games against Latvia on Monday and Germany on Tuesday.

Sweden 2, Slovenia 0: Colorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog broke a scoreless tie with a goal with a goal 5:50 into the second period, and Buffalo Sabres goalie Jhonas Enroth stopped all 21 shots he faced in a game played at Globe Arena in Stockholm.

Fredrik Pettersson also had a goal for Sweden, which moved into third place in Group S, two points behind first-place Switzerland. Devils' defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who has a goal and an assist for Sweden in six games, registered one shot on goal in 19:51 of ice time.

Sweden closes preliminary-round play with a game against Belarus on Tuesday. Winless Slovenia finishes the first round with a game Monday against Canada.

Norway 3, Belarus 1: Per-Age Skroder scored twice to lead Norway past Belarus and into fourth place in Group S in a game played at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

Anders Bastiansen also had a goal, and goalie Lars Haugen stopped 18 of 19 shots.

For Belarus, Devils' forward prospect Artur Gavrus made his tournament debut and went 1-for-1 on faceoffs in 14:11 of ice time. Fellow countryman and Albany Devils (AHL) defenseman Raman Hrabarenka has averaged 22:47 of ice time in five games.

Norway moved a point ahead of the Czech Republic in the Group S standings with two games remaining, against Switzerland on Sunday and the Czech Republic on Tuesday. Belarus finishes the preliminary round with games against Denmark on Monday and Switzerland on Tuesday.

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