Lore Baudrit scored four minutes into the third period to give France a 2-1 lead.
It looked like the game would end in France’s favor but with just over a minute left in regulation, Marie Delarbre beat France goalie Caroline Baldin from a tight angle to send the game to a 3-on-3 overtime.
Neither team scored in overtime and the game went to a shootout.
Manuela Anwander scored Germany’s first goal of the shootout, deking Baldin and Andrea Lanzl added another by beating Baldin five-hole from close range. France didn’t score on any of its shootout chances.
“We never gave up and I think today’s result shows our character,” Germany captain Julia Zorn said. “This was the first step and we want to keep improving with every game.”
One team from Group D will qualify for the Pyeongchang Olympics. The other teams in the group are Japan and Austria.
Eight nations will play in the women’s tournament at the 2018 Games. The United States, Canada, Finland, Russia and Sweden have already secured places, along with South Korea which earns a spot as the host nation.
France took a 1-0 lead late in the first period when Marion Allemoz picked up a loose puck on a goal-mouth scramble and fired past German goalkeeper Jennifer Harss.
Germany was penalized three times in the first period and the first goal came on a delayed penalty.
“We took too many penalties in the first period,” Germany coach Benjamin Hinterstocker said. “I talked to the players in the first intermission and told them we have to play a full 60 minutes, period by period.”
Germany equalized on a power-play goal at 14:58 of the second period. Sophie Kratzer grabbed a rebound and lifted a backhanded shot over Baldin.
Germany dominated play in the third but was unable to take advantage of their power-play opportunities. The Germans had a 5-on-3 midway through the third period but couldn’t find an equalizer. When they did get a shot on net, Baldin was there to make the save.