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Flames goalie Chad Johnson backstops Canada to a nailbiting 3-2 win in world championship tilt in Paris

by AARON VICKERS @aavickers /

PARIS - Chad Johnson wasn't standing on a pitch, in front of the 8x24.

But he may as well have been.

It felt as close to playing in a footy match as the 30-year-old Flames goaltender is going to get, with a boisterous, sold-out crowd of Parisians hooting, hollering, chanting and singing away to push the home side.

And against Johnson's Team Canada.

"That," he started, "has got to be right up there for me, for the environment.

"Obviously back in Calgary, I don't know if it can really compare to that…the playoffs there. But it's such a different environment over here and the energy is just non-stop through the whole play.

"It was pretty special."

Johnson, tending twine as a member of Canada's entry at the 2017 IIHF World Championship, played opposite France at AccorHotels Arena in Paris on Thursday.

Understandably, he got an earful.

All the while locked in a dogfight.

Canada edged the tournament co-host 3-2.

Johnson finished with 22 saves in the win. 

"They're just tenacious," said Johnson, who went 18-15-1 with a 2.59 goals-against average and .910 save percentage in 36 games with his hometown Flames in 2016-17. "They have an NHL style. They're hard on the puck. They defend really well, too. They don't seem to get flustered or lose their composure even with the score or when we control the play. They really stick together and they generate a little bit of scoring chances, too.

"They keep it simple. And they're fast.

"They're probably one of the fastest teams we've played so far, too."

And that crowd?

The Oohs and Ahhs?

The chirping birds and the non-stop applause?

The rendition of the French National anthem sung in unison by the 14,510 in attendance?

An added boost for France, no doubt.  

"Big time," said Johnson, whose family will join him in Paris on Friday. "It helped them a lot. You could tell they had a lot of energy. We were quick, but I think they were just as quick as we were. We had the puck more, but they were still skating. That gave them a lot of energy.

"I tried to stay as focused as I could. It was a good environment, for sure.

"Back home in Calgary we have a lot of fans and the environment is pretty crazy. I'm sort of used to that. The toughest is you don't get a lot of action and then all of a sudden it's a Grade A or a powerplay chance. That's a little bit different. There wasn't a lot of easy saves. It was just a battle for everybody.

"It was a tough game for us."

Johnson, one of two goaltenders for Canada alongside Calvin Pickard of the Colorado Avalanche, is in his second go-round representing Canada. He also donned the Maple Leaf as a 23-year-old at the 2010 World Championship in Colgone and Mannheim, Germany.

The 2017 tournament will take him back to Cologne after Canada completes the round-robin portion, and potentially a quarterfinal match, in Paris.

He'll continue on with one heck of a memory.

"The chanting and non-stop environment like that…it's different than the NHL for sure," Johnson said.

"That's what it's all about over here."

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