Minsk, Belarus (4E Sports) – Forward Pierre-Édouard Bellemare scored in the third round of the shootout Friday to carry France to a 3-2 upset win over Canada in the preliminary round of the 2014 IIHF World Championship at Chizhovka Arena.
The victory was the second by France against Canada at the World Championship dating back to 1931. The French previously defeated Canada, 4-1, in April 1995. The Canadians, who defeated France 9-1 at the 2011 WC and 7-2 in 2012, fall to 8-2 all-time against France.
France goalie Cristobal Huet, who made 34 saves through overtime, denied Kyle Turris (Ottawa Senators), Sean Monahan (Calgary Flames) and Matt Read (Philadelphia Flyers) before Bellemare connected for the winner in the tiebreaker off a shot high to the stick side.
“Any time we beat a top-six, it’s huge,” France coach Dave Henderson told the IIHF website. “Canada is where hockey is. If you beat Canada, it’s a huge thing for French hockey.”
The 29-year-old Bellemare, who stars in the Swedish Hockey League for Skelleftea, had 20 goals and 35 points in 52 games as an assistant captain for Skelleftea in 2013-14.
Canada, the two-time defending Olympic champion, is seeking its first World Championship gold medal since 2007 and first medal of any kind since 2009. France, meanwhile, is looking to improve on last year’s 13th-place finish.
Canada goalie James Reimer (Toronto Maple Leafs) finished with 26 saves.
Meanwhile, NHL teammates Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov of the Washington Capitals scored in the first as Russia opened its campaign with a 5-0 win over Switzerland at Minsk Arena.
Sergei Bobrovsky of the Columbus Blue Jackets made 27 saves to earn the shutout and victory in his first World Championship appearance for Russia.
Ovechkin finished with one goal and two points in the game for Russia, which will next face Finland on Sunday. Artem Anisimov scored a shorthanded goal and Anton Belov and Danis Zaripov also scored in the triumph.
Switzerland, which won the silver medal at the 2013 World Championship in Stockholm, will play the United States Saturday.