Americans defeat France for tournament-opening win
Team USA had the perfect tune-up for Saturday's rivalry showdown with Canada at the 2012 IIHF World Championship in Helsinki.
The Americans opened tournament play Friday afternoon with a convincing 7-2 win against France at Hartwall Arena.
New York Islander Kyle Okposo had a pair of goals -- including a memorable bad-angle snipe -- and Montreal's Max Pacioretty, the man of the match, had a goal and three points. Detroit Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard made 21 saves for the Americans.
Former NHL goalie Cristobal Huet, who won the Stanley Cup with Chicago in 2010, played for France and stopped 28 of 35 shots.
Anaheim Duck forward Bobby Ryan, who had a goal, said the game was closer than the final scoreline indicated.
"The score didn't really indicate the game," Ryan told IIHF.com. "I think they could have had a lot more goals and we could have come up with a few less. It was closer than people might realize."
Actually, France opened the scoring, putting the Americans under a bit of adversity early. Nicolas Besch beat Howard with a wrist shot from the slot at 12:17, but Okposo answered with a breakaway goal a little less than five minutes later.
"It was a little bit of nerves out there," Howard said. "It's been a little while since I played for Team USA, so I was a little bit nervous in the first and second but I felt a lot better in the third.
The Americans pulled away in the final two periods, using a pair of power-play goals to establish a 3-1 lead and then adding four more even-strength goals in the game's final 27 minutes.
Now, the Americans have to get ready for Team Canada on Saturday. Canada plays Slovakia later Friday.
"It's better for us to take it one step at a time," Ryan told IIHF.com. "We got a feel for the big ice in Sweden, and a lot of guys felt uncomfortable with it and the extra width, so it was important that we get a game under our belt in a different situation like this."