Mélodie Daoust Came to Play: Boston 1, Montreal 3
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Mélodie Daoust Came to Play: Boston 1, Montreal 3

Mélodie Daoust Came to Play: Boston 1, Montreal 3 by Zoë Hayden

Boston came into Verdun Auditorium looking to extend a two-game win streak after putting regulation wins together for the first time all season. Montreal also hadn't done that heading into today's game – but it was the home team who started their first ever regulation win streak (if you can believe that) and made it look easy.

What happened?

Boston spent the first period forcing the issue with Montreal, knowing that they had a chance of success at dumping the puck in, slowing the pace, and forcing turnovers. But less than four minutes in, Montreal was able to do what they do best, which is find ways to turn nothing into something spectacular. A keep at the blueline turned into a shot on goal which turned into a juicy rebound that Marie-Philip Poulin couldn't miss on, and it was 1-0.

Late in the first, Alina Müller kept her feet moving while stickhandling to draw a tripping penalty, but Boston was unable to capitalize at the end of the first and into the second period. A few minutes later, Mélodie Daoust, in her very first game with Montreal on a 10-day contract, made it 2-0 off the faceoff after Poulin won it forward to herself to the left of Aerin Frankel and flipped a quick pass to Daoust, who put it in an open cage.

Abby Cook played a tough and smart defensive game against Montreal (blocking shots and passes, and playing physical), but let Tereza Vanišová get into her head a bit. Vanišová almost split the D, but the attempt to close the gap on her went un-called. Cook then flattened Vanišová along the boards and ended up in the box anyway. While Montreal didn't score on the advantage, they kept coming in waves, and Boston looked disorganized on all of their breakouts. Their best chance until that point in the period came on a 2-on-1 with Taylor Girard shooting the puck, but Chuli made the save. Shortly thereafter, Schafzahl was able to get another good look at Chuli after stripping the puck from a falling Mariah Keopple, but again it was saved and didn't lead to anything more.

Boston kept pushing, though, and had the 19-15 shot advantage, and things seemed to slow down a bit. Müller and Hilary Knight got a 2-on-1 chance, with Müller completing the takeaway along the boards near the benches, and this finally got Boston on the board. Müller passed early and Erin Ambrose committed over to Knight, expecting a pass back to Müller. Knight hesitated slightly and then released a low, quick shot that beat Chuli and made it 2-1.

Heading to the third down 2-1 had to feel like a step in the right direction, and Boston forced Montreal to weather a bit of a storm early in the period. But Poulin carried the puck into the zone on a transition play, went deep, and then got the puck up to Erin Ambrose, who put a seemingly harmless low shot on Aerin Frankel, but it had some movement on it and it found its way to the back of the net.

For the rest of the game, while Boston played well at times and had opportunities, they couldn't get a whole lot of sustained pressure going and they also managed to take three penalties, none of which were good ones to take while trailing – Jamie Lee Rattray for roughing, Susanna Tapani for holding, and Jessica Digirolamo for a high hit with under 2 minutes to go. Boston didn't let the fight go out of them and made several goes at getting offense going while shorthanded, but time ran out and they didn't get anything past Chuli.

Three up, three down

↑ Good starts – Montreal scored a goal in the opening five minutes of each period, which is a good way to ensure you're setting the tone. On Saturday night it ended with Mélodie Daoust getting what ended up being the game-winner early in the second period. Putting Boston behind early meant they had to force a lot on offense, which played into a back-and-forth, more open style of hockey that Montreal thrives on. Montreal's offensive secret sauce continues to dominate the league – any situation is a potential scoring situation for this team, and not very many PWHL teams can say that.

↓ Boston frustration – Boston let Montreal get to them late in the game and got whistled on some disappointing penalties that basically ensured their defeat.

↑ Elaine Chuli – Chuli remains undefeated with a 5-0 record in the PWHL. Her professional hockey win streak is now 8 games, dating back to March 18, 2023, Game 2 of the Isobel Cup semifinals against the Connecticut Whale, when she got the overtime victory with the Toronto Six.

Shot quality over quantity – Boston continues to have somewhat baffling shot selection – like they aren't thinking through how to create a scoring opportunity beyond "put pucks on net." The lack of strategy is peculiar and leaves them vulnerable to mistakes.

↑ Susanna Tapani – While Boston's record hasn't shifted much since acquiring Tapani, it's hard to argue that she isn't an impact player. In this game, while the lineup showed her centering a top line with Schafzahl and Rattray, she spent a lot of time late in the game out as a left wing with Müller and Knight to try to generate more offense, and you can't deny that those three on the ice together are an intimidating bunch.

↓ Limited minutes – The bottom six of Boston's lineup generated a decent amount of offense with limited time. Leaning on Knight, Müller, and Tapani for big minutes makes sense, but the speed from the fourth line felt like a difference-maker when it was on the ice – that's Girard, Marvin, and Pelkey, who combined for five shots on goal. Spreading the minutes out a little more equitably among the lines might have resulted in a better rhythm to Boston's game. In fact, that was the case in both of their recent regulation wins – Tapani led all forwards with 20:01 against Minnesota and 18:46 against Ottawa, but most other forwards skated between 14 and 17 minutes.

VP's Player of the Game

Laura Stacey and Tereza Vanišová – Vanišová is the kind of player who seems to come out with more edge every time she gets shut down and Stacey continued to showcase her ability to generate scoring chances out of thin air with her size and reach. Neither of them ended up on the scoresheet, but Stacey had 6 shots and Vanišová had 2, and they were a constant threat for Boston every time they were on the ice.

(Photo: PWHL)