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U.S. tops France, stays in running for Group lead @NHLdotcom

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.

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.

Finland 7, Austria 2: Veli-Matti Savinainen had a pair of goals and former Blackhawks forward Petri Kontiola had a goal and two assists as Finland regained the top spot in Group H with a win against Austria at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki.

Kontiola now leads the tournament with 12 points, and he's tied with the Devils' Ilya Kovalchuk for the tournament lead with six goals.

Finland led 3-0 after two periods, but a pair of shorthanded goals by Austria in the first 2:46 of the third period made it a one-goal game.

Phoenix Coyotes forward Lauri Korpikoski gave Finland some breathing room with a power-play goal at 9:26 to make it 4-2, and Niklas Hagman, Jarno Koskiranta and Savinainen added late goals for the final margin.

Finland plays its final preliminary-round game Tuesday against Latvia. Austria plays its final game Monday against Russia.

Switzerland 4, Denmark 1: Four different players had goals as Switzerland topped Denmark to remain the only undefeated team in the tournament.

Luca Cunti, Ryan Gardner, Reto Suri and New York Islanders prospect Nino Niederreiter each had a goal in a game played at Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden.

Cunti, a 2007 Tampa Bay Lightning draft pick, opened the scoring with a power-play goal 1:55 into the game, and Gardner's power-play goal at 11:02 of the second made it 2-0.

Vancouver Canucks forward Nicklas Jensen, in his first game, scored Denmark's lone goal at 13:54 of the second.

That would be as close as the Danes got, as Suri scored 3:47 into the third, and then Niederreiter's power-play goal, his fourth of tournament, closed the scoring.

Switzerland went 3-for-4 with the man-advantage and is 7-for-17 (41.2 percent) in five games.

"In pre-tournament games our power play worked pretty good," Swiss forward Denis Hollenstein said. "We have a lot of confidence in our power play right now but need to keep battling and keep it intense to keep going like that."

Switzerland, which has a one-point lead on Canada in Group S, closes the preliminary round with games against Norway on Sunday and Belarus on Tuesday. Denmark, which fell to seventh in the eight-team group, next plays Belarus on Monday.

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.

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

Germany 2, Latvia 0: Christoph Ullman's goal at 8:05 of the second period snapped a scoreless tie, and Rob Zepp stopped all 26 shots he faced as Germany beat Latvia in a game at Hartwall Arena in Helsinki and climbed to fifth in Group H.

Patrick Hager also had a goal for Germany, which equaled Slovakia with seven points. Slovakia has the tiebreaker based on their 3-2 win earlier in the preliminary round.

Germany has two games left in the preliminary round, against the United States on Sunday and France on Tuesday. Latvia, which is last in their group, plays France on Monday and Finland on Tuesday.

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.

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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