With an overtime goal by Ann-Sophie Bettez, PWHL Montreal silenced a raucous Ottawa crowd in the most-attended professional women's hockey game of all time.
The game started chippy and fast-paced, and never let up until the final horn. Montreal took three penalties in the first 10:20 of the game (with the two lattermost penalties leading to a 5-on-3) but Ottawa didn't capitalize on those opportunities. MTL's Marie-Philip Poulin was similarly unable to take advantage of the league's first penalty shot in the second period, as Emerance Maschmeyer tracked her the whole way and made a stunning stop.
(Some other firsts while we're at it: OTT's Mikyla Grant-Mentis scored a disallowed goal; Hayley Scamurra scored Ottawa's first goal, the league's first power-play goal, and the first goal by a home team; MTL's Claire Dalton scored Montreal's first goal; and Ann-Sophie Bettez notched the first ever overtime winner.)
The majority of the game seemed to play out in two places: in front of the net, and along the boards. While Ottawa dominated offensive play for large stretches of all three regulation periods, Montreal eliminated 1-0 and 2-1 leads to get to overtime, then Bettez scored a minute into OT off an incredible individual forechecking effort by Kristin O'Neill.
Three up, three down
↑ The atmosphere – A full house of 8,318 people attended Tuesday's game, and the fans' presence could be felt through the screen. As commentator Daniella Ponticelli said after the game – "Ottawa has wrapped its arms around this league." And as others pointed out, rivalry could be brewing:
↓ Montreal's discipline – Most teams would be happy to limit their opponent to one PP goal per game, but they'd be even happier if they didn't give their opponents six (!) chances to score, two of which allowed for almost thirty seconds of 5-on-3 time. Montreal even notched the PWHL's first delay of game penalty and allowed Scamurra to open the scoring for Ottawa.
↑ Non-regional fans – This game was exciting as hell, and if I were earnestly rooting for either of these teams out of regional or national obligation, I would've torn my hair out. It was one of the best hockey games I've seen in years, and I'm thrilled to have watched it without a rooting interest.
↓ Net stability – I'm not a goaltending expert, but I imagine the PWHL isn't too pleased that a puck slid underneath one of the nets in the league's second game.
↑ Stability in net – Despite the above snafu, however, both goalies had great games, especially in the first two periods. For a while, it looked like neither goalie would be beaten, but Grant-Mentis's disallowed goal opened the floodgates.
↓ Net stability, again (Rule of threes!) – YouTube's streaming infrastructure gave PWHL staffers some trouble during the pre-game and caused the stream to go live 10-15 minutes later than expected. However, the chat was (mostly) understanding and supportive, a vibe that continued throughout the whole game.
VP's Player of the Game
Kristin O'Neill – O'Neill was hard to play against all game, but this play in overtime was straight out of an EA Sports NHL game: beat the defender to the puck, spin to the forehand to gain space, skate past the hashmarks and back-hand the puck to your closest teammate for a pinch shot. Even though Kati Tabin missed that shot, Bettez was there to clean up the rebound and make it all worth it for Montreal.