Ottawa Senators center Stephane Da Costa had two goals and two assists during a four-goal third period to lead France to a 6-2 victory against Denmark in preliminary-round play of the 2014 IIHF World Championship at Chizhovka Arena in Belarus.
The victory enabled France to advance to the quarterfinal round of the World Championship for the first time since 1995. Left wing Antoine Roussel (Dallas Stars) had a goal and three assists, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had a goal and two assists in the win.
"This is huge for French hockey," France coach Dave Henderson told the IIHF website. "It's been a long time since it last happened. I'm totally happy with the team."
Goalie Cristobal Huet made 31 saves to earn his second win in three games at the tournament for France (4-2, 10 points).
Kim Staal scored 14:41 into the second to pull Denmark into a 2-2 tie. Simon Nielsen made 23 saves for the Danes (2-4, five points).
France scored four unanswered goals in the third in a span of 5:59 to break open what had been a tie game.
"We made some adjustments for the third period and got back to playing our style," Henderson said. "We got pucks to the net and it paid off. It's rare that our team's scored that many goals, but maybe it's because Denmark opened up."
France outshot the Danes 15-11 in the third, when Bellemare scored at 9:10, Da Costa at 10:36, Antonin Manavian at 12:52 and Da Costa again at 15:09.
"It's huge," Roussel said. "We talked about it now, and I don't realize it right away, but it's huge. We have a big game [Tuesday]. We just want to move up in the standings and make things better for ourselves, and have fun."
France will close out its preliminary-round schedule Tuesday against the Czech Republic before playing a quarterfinal-round game Thursday. Denmark will play Slovakia on Tuesday.
"We lost the Italy game [2-1 on May 11] and we thought we were going to be in trouble," Da Costa said. "But we came back hard and we won some big games. I don't want to look at any upsets or anything. I just want to celebrate the Denmark game right now, and then we'll have the Czech game and see who we're playing. We're going to play as hard as we can. That's all we can do."
Finland 4, Kazakhstan 3: Jarkko Immonen scored the decisive goal with 2.7 seconds remaining in the second period, giving Finland a 4-2 lead in preliminary-round action in Group B at Minsk Arena. Olli Jokinen (Winnipeg Jets) and Jori Lehtera each had a goal and an assist, and Pekka Rinne (Nashville Predators) made 25 saves for the Finns.
"They could have scored more and both goalies did great," Immonen told the IIHF website. "We took too many penalties and they got some chances. In the end we were a bit lucky they didn't score again at the end of the third period."
Kazakhstan (0-7, two points) pulled to within 4-3 on a power-play goal by Konstantin Romanov with 29 seconds left in the third with the goalie pulled for a two-man advantage. Olli Palola also scored for Finland (4-3, 11 points), which completed its preliminary-round schedule. It remains to be seen, based on other results, if the Finns will be playing in the quarterfinal round.
Sweden 5, Italy 1: Gustav Nyquist (Detroit Red Wings) scored two goals in preliminary-round action in Group A at Chizhovka Arena. Joacim Eriksson (Vancouver Canucks) made 10 saves in his first appearance of the tournament for Sweden (6-1, 18 points).
Sweden, which scored four power-play goals, held a 40-11 advantage in shots. Mattias Ekholm (Nashville Predators) and Nicklas Danielsson each had a goal and an assist and Linus Klasen had four assists. Daniel Bellissimo made 35 saves for Italy (1-6, three points).
Nyquist opened the scoring 48 seconds into the first on an even-strength goal before Markus Gander connected for the Italians at 10:07. Ekholm scored on the power play with 3:28 remaining in the first to put Sweden ahead for good.
Power-play goals in the second by Nyquist at 14:24 and Danielsson at 17:53 extended the lead to 4-1. Jimmie Ericsson, who serves as captain for Skellefteå AIK in the Swedish Hockey League, scored another power-play goal with 4:05 left in the third to close out the scoring. Nyquist, who has four goals and six points in seven tournament games, generated six shots in 17:37 of ice time.
Sweden will next play Thursday in the quarterfinal round against an opponent to be determined.
Belarus 3, Latvia 1: Mikhail Grabovski (Washington Capitals) scored the decisive goal with 11:20 left in preliminary-round action in Group B at Minsk Arena.
Kevin Lalande made 18 saves in the victory. Belarus had taken a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by Geoff Platt at 8:07 and Grabovski just 33 second later. Latvia pulled to within 2-1 when Arturs Kulda scored a power-play goal with 6:11 left in the second.
Sergei Kostitsyn scored into an empty net with just one second left in regulation after Latvia pulled its goalie for an extra attacker.
Belarus (4-2, 12 points) will next face Russia (6-0, 18 points) in what is sure to be a packed house in Minsk on Tuesday. Russian captain Alex Ovechkin will reportedly miss the game after sustaining a right knee injury on Sunday against Germany.
Edgars Masalskis made 13 saves for Latvia (3-3, nine points), which will play Switzerland on Tuesday.