Canada looks more like a team that wants to get to the world championships elimination round in one piece than a dominant hockey force.
Anthony Mantha scored twice as Canada beat France 5-2 in Kosice, Slovakia, on Thursday in a closer-than-it-should-have-been game.
“Any time you win it feels good,” Mantha told the Star in a phone interview. “France came out better than we were expecting, and we weren’t as sharp as we were in previous games. But a win is a win. We build from today and move forward in the tournament.”
Canada has won three in a row since losing the opener to Finland. It wasn’t that Canada was going through the motions; the Canadians dominated play, created all kinds of scoring chances and have generally used games against the lesser lights to pad their stats and work out some kinks, try out some new lines and defensive pairs while trying to stay healthy.
“Hockey is hockey. There’s a lot of injuries, that’s a part of the sport. Unfortunately, we lost two big pieces already,” said Mantha, referring to Maple Leafs centre John Tavares (oblique) and Brandon Montour (lower body), both of whom are out for the duration of the tournament.
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Philadelphia Flyers defenceman Philippe Myers was the latest addition to walk off a plane an hour and a half before game time and get into the action.
“My legs felt okay,” Myers told TSN.
Myers took the last roster spot after Team Canada needed a defenceman following Montour’s injury.
Keeping defencemen healthy seems to be an issue. Dante Fabbro missed the game after taking a puck to the face Monday and the game wasn’t a period old when defenceman Damon Severson crawled off the ice after taking a hard shot off the ankle, though he returned to the game.
Myers, a Flyers rookie, wasn’t about to say no to his new Philadelphia coach, Alain Vigneault, behind the Canadian bench.
Playing with fire: Canada built a 3-0 lead on goals by Mantha, Darnell Nurse and Anthony Cirella in the first period and then tried to coast. After France scored twice, Canada turned up the heat again in the third, rewarded by Mantha’s second goal and one by Mark Stone.
Canada outshot France 46-23 with goalie Carter Hart getting his second win in his second start.
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Damien Fleury scored late in the second and Anthony Rech, benefitting from his own hard forechecking, scored early in the third to cut Canada’s lead to 3-2.
Busy Buysse: Making his worlds debut, French goalie Henri Corentin Buysse was often on his own defending Canadian snipers while keeping his team in the game. He was named France’s player of the game.
He allowed three goals on 16 shots in the first period, when Canada also hit four posts. But he we terrific as the game went on, stymying Canada on a number of breakaways, including Stone short-handed and Dylan Strome at even strength in the second period when France tried to mount a comeback.
Notes: Jonathan Marchessault has a point in every game for Canada … The French featured one NHLer, Columbus forward Alexandre Texier. He had one goal in two regular-season games, and two goals in eight playoff games. He played most of the season in Finland.
Up next: On Saturday, Canada plays ex-Leaf Korbinian Holzer and Team Germany. The Germans won silver at the last Winter Olympics (without NHLers). Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl leads the attack. The game is 10:15 a.m. ET on TSN.
Elsewhere: Sweden was bolstered by the addition of Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog. He had a goal and two assists in a 9-1 win over Italy. Leaf forward William Nylander had a goal and an assist.