Montreal finally got the thrill of an OT winner at home in front of 8,646 fans at Place Bell in Laval.
This game got off to a somewhat slow start with teams trading minor chances and hemming one another in along the boards, but it would turn into something a lot more intense before too long. While each side was able to possess the puck well for long stretches, the most quality scoring chance came from an individual effort by Laura Stacey – and resulted in a goal. Erin Ambrose sprang her in the neutral zone and she carried the puck deep, using her size and speed to threaten a shot on Emerance Maschmeyer's glove side. She forced Maschmeyer and Ottawa's defense to commit to the shot she was about to take. But she didn't take it. Instead she carried the puck around the net and had a wide open cage for a wraparound. It was quintessentially a Laura Stacey play – make something out of nothing and turn it into a goal – and it gave Montreal a 1-0 lead.
The second period started with some concern for Ottawa as Stacey went off to the races again, this time on a breakaway. Jincy Roese was assessed a tripping penalty for hauling her down, and Stacey was awarded a penalty shot. At the same time, Maschmeyer had gone down hard and was taking a long time to get up. After some time with a trainer, she remained in the game, and made her most stunning stop of the game on Stacey's penalty shot, keeping it out right at the post with her glove.
The second was scoreless, but not without some good looks on both sides. This is when Ottawa started to pull away in possession and shots, though, and Ann-Renée Desbiens was equal to all of them – not giving up rebounds and making every angle look impossible for Ottawa's shooters. Ottawa out-shot Montreal 12-6 in the frame.
In the third, that gap would get even wider. It started out with Montreal forechecking pretty hard and keeping Ottawa hemmed in their own end, but Ottawa clawed back. Starting with a series of frantic scoring chances for the top line of Emily Clark, Gabbie Hughes, and Daryl Watts, Ottawa started putting everything they had on Desbiens. Kati Tabin's hooking penalty, drawn by Watts after the very next faceoff, set up a power play for the visitors. In a good sequence of possession and movement for the first unit, Savannah Harmon, Brianne Jenner, and Hayley Scamurra all played catch. Scamurra took the shot from below the hashmarks and found a gap in Desbiens, moving cross-crease, to tie the game at 1.
Ottawa didn't let up; they wanted this one in regulation. They put 19 shots on goal to Montreal's 3 in the third period. But Desbiens was spectacular and they simply couldn't beat her, including on a power play chance immediately after the goal.
When the game went to OT, both teams came very close in quick succession. Montreal entered the zone and forced Maschmeyer to make three big stops. At the other end, Desbiens had to some of her best work of the night to freeze a puck against a buzzing Harmon, Jenner, and Kateřina Mrázová, who nearly banked one past her off her teammates' sticks. But Montreal won the ensuing faceoff and went the other way, with Tabin finding herself deep and throwing the puck towards the middle with Ann-Sophie Bettez driving the net. Maschmeyer made the initial stop, but the puck popped out to Maureen Murphy, who did not miss.
There was a long conversation by the officials after Montreal's initial celebrations, but the goal was quickly ruled as good. The question seemed to be whether Bettez interfered with Maschmeyer's ability to make a save, but this time, it went in Montreal's favor. It was surprising that Murphy's goal didn't at least get an extended review based on Bettez making some contact with her in the crease. It's a tough loss for Ottawa, and another 2-point win for Montreal, who haven't been beat in regulation since January 6.
Three up, three down
↑ Roster flexibility – Catherine Dubois was signed to her second 10-day contract of the season with Tereza Vanišová out of the lineup for medical reasons. Injury/illness management has felt like a potential looming concern, but so far, teams have been able to adapt and get players into the lineup as needed from their reserve rosters. As teams approach the one-third mark of the regular season, it'll be interesting to see whether the reserves continue to get the job done down the stretch. Dubois, for her part, immediately slotted into Montreal's top line.
↓ Lexie Adzija's point streak – Stopped at 6 games. We all jinxed it. She did have an amazing look on a third period power play for Ottawa, but Desbiens gloved it.
↑↓ Montreal's killer instinct – Montreal is a team with two distinct personalities. Sometimes they play on their heels for long stretches. But they get spectacular goaltending in a way that seems downright unfair (I mean this in a good way). The way Desbiens and Chuli are both playing is an absolute luxury for a team that plays like it was designed in a lab to create high-event hockey. That said, one wonders how sustainable it is. Ottawa played a great possession game against them for long, long stretches. Sometimes this season, it's going to backfire on Montreal. (New York also plays this way, which is why the matchups between these two teams have felt like heart attacks.) But on the other hand, there's something magical about the way Montreal can suddenly "turn it on"and create elite offense from pretty much any game situation (except, apparently, the power play). When it counts, someone on the Montreal flips a switch and gets it done. The best team in the PWHL so far got there by getting big game performances from throughout their lineup (but, you know, also from MPP and Stacey).
↓ Ottawa in OT – Ottawa has been to overtime three times, and lost three times. Every other team who has been to extra time so far has won at least once.
↑ Gay culture – Laura Stacey's goal was accompanied by a shot of Marie-Philip Poulin celebrating her fiancée's tally on the bench. Give the people what they want.
VP's Player of the Game
Hayley Scamurra – She had an eye-popping 7 shots on goal and, obviously, Ottawa's goal. Beating Desbiens when she's on automatic like this is no easy feat.