HELSINKI, May 3 (R-Sport) – Tomas Zaborsky scored a goal and an assist and Rastislav Stana recorded 24 saves as Slovakia beat France 6-2 in the opening game of the world hockey championship on Friday.
It was an easy win for the Slovaks, the surprise silver medalists at last year’s tournament, as they controlled the puck from the opening drop, firing 37 shots at a combination of overmatched veteran French goaltenders Cristobal Huet and Fabrice Lhenry.
"It's good for us that the first game is behind us and we got three points," Slovak winger Branko Radivojevic told the IIHF. "But we did a lot of mistakes and we have to improve them."
Shaky play, however, barely showed on Slovakia's end. After an easy first period goal by Michel Miklik, the team went up 2-0 at 25:27 of the second when Huet deflected a Marek Daloga shot from the left circle to a wide-open Peter Olvecky, who buried it high right.
Zaborsky, who scored 15 goals in 47 games for the Florida Panthers this season, made it 3-0 just over three minutes later, taking a Roman Kukumberg pass from the right wing and tapping the puck through Huet’s legs while streaking hard toward the net.
The hole deepened for the French early in the third period after center Brian Henderson – the son of long-time national team head coach Dave Henderson – received a double minor penalty for high sticking, setting up unanswered power-play goals from Radivojevic and team captain Miroslav Satan 50 seconds apart.
Slovakia is looking to clear the preliminary round for the second year in a row after failing to reach the playoffs between 2009 and 2011. They scored 30 goals last year while posting a 7-3 record, eventually losing 6-2 to Russia in the gold medal game.
France, meanwhile, hasn’t made the playoffs in their five tournaments since being promoted from division one in 2007.
They showed some life midway through the third period Friday, scoring their first goal of the tournament on a wild backhander from Damien Roux that darted past Stana’s glove hand.
Damien Fleury capitalized on an Andrej Sekera interference penalty at 51:58 of third, sending a long slap shot through traffic and into the net.
France and Slovakia are playing in the Helsinki group with the United States, Latvia, Germany, Austria, Finland, Germany and defending champion Russia.
A second group, playing their games in Stockhom, is comprised of Belarus, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Norway, Slovenia, Sweden and Switzerland.
In other preliminary round action on Friday, the Czech Republic plays Belarus, Finland takes on Germany and Sweden faces Switzerland. The championship runs until May 19.