Flipped Script: Minnesota 3, Montreal 4
- 4 min read

Flipped Script: Minnesota 3, Montreal 4

Flipped Script: Minnesota 3, Montreal 4 by Zoë Hayden

Before the long international break, Montreal was on a four-game losing streak, and Minnesota was on a five-game winning one. Neither was to continue – though if you had to miss the last four minutes, you'd be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

What happened?

The first period felt a little tentative, with both teams maybe shaking off some rust. Teams traded stretches of possession and a few shots on net. Montreal's famously not-amazing power play and Minnesota's surprisingly poor penalty kill combined, though, to change the scoreline.

First, on a delay-of-game call, Kristin O'Neill continued where she left off with Team Canada by heading to the net and taking a couple whacks at a rebound to beat Maddie Rooney. After that, Minnesota mustered their best offensive zone shift so far, but Elaine Chuli was aggressive on the puck and didn't give them much room. Then Michaela Cava took a slashing penalty and put Montreal back on the advantage. Rooney stopped a stunning slapshot by Laura Stacey, but after the next faceoff, Marie-Philip Poulin cruised through the slot to tap in a drive by Erin Ambrose, and it was 2-0.

In the second, Minnesota got their chances on the power play after two consecutive stick infractions by Mikyla Grant-Mentis. The first penalty saw Minnesota struggle to get established in the zone, but the second time they held court and kept feeding it to Grace Zumwinkle at the top of the left circle. The fourth time she got that shot, she buried it past Rooney to cut Montreal's lead in half.

The penalties weren't over yet and Montreal went back to the power play hoping to make it a perfect 3-for-3, and while it wasn't meant to be there were a few close calls and they nearly kept the puck in Minnesota's end for the full time of the penalty.

While it wasn't a dominant kill, it was a kill nonetheless and Minnesota got energy from it and started to cycle. Sophie Jaques took a big slapshot that was redirected past Chuli by Kelly Pannek, and it was 2-all.

Minnesota then got a scoring opportunity seemingly out of nowhere on the rush, with Brooke Bryant driving the net and taking a quick, long pass by Taylor Heise from along the wall. It was Bryant's first PWHL point and it gave Minnesota the lead for the first time – a lead they would take into the third.

The third period featured a lot of back-and-forth and scoring chances; Minnesota wanted to extend their lead and Montreal was hungry for their first win in over a month. Montreal had their best chances with under three to go with O'Neill getting a shot off in the slot and Poulin making a sick backhander, but Rooney stopped both. After that save, Kori Cheverie called timeout, and when play resumed it was 6-on-5 with Chuli pulled. Laura Stacey scored the tying goal with a big blast from the point.

And then, Minnesota took another penalty – Maggie Flaherty for holding. Montreal seems to have found a unit and a strategy that is effective on the power play, and they put out the same personnel – Poulin, Stacey, Ambrose, O'Neill, and Murphy. Less than halfway through the penalty clock time, O'Neill picked up the puck in the slot and shot it through traffic to beat Rooney and take the 4-3 lead. Minnesota then had just over 40 seconds to attempt to get the equalizer – but that wasn't enough time to reset. Montreal took the regulation win in front of a raucous home crowd.

Three up, three down

↑ Montreal's power play, and ↓ Minnesota, against an extra attacker – Montreal's power play had great movement and even better execution, going 3 for 4 on the night and making Minnesota pay for their mistakes. Every goal scored against Minnesota came in a special teams situation. They allowed 3 goals on penalties and one goal 6-on-5. This poor penalty killing by Minnesota has to be concerning heading into the playoffs – on top of the fact that they clawed back from a 2-0 deficit to take the lead, but couldn't hang on. The "Montreal's secret sauce" theory is still holding true.

↑ Verdun Auditorium – Montreal continued their streak of always getting at least a point at Verdun. They were so close to losing 3-2, but tied it up late. I was beginning to make a note of them going to OT, but then they promptly took a 4-3 regulation victory. The atmosphere in Verdun is electric and it's no wonder they succeed there so consistently.

↓ Clinching scenarios for Minnesota – With the loss, Minnesota fails to clinch a playoff spot, and Montreal closes the gap on them from third place to stand just one point back with 4 games remaining. Nothing about these standings is guaranteed yet. After last night's games, there is just a 2-point spread between first place and third place.

↑ Different pace – After mainlining the international game for 2 weeks, I remembered why I love it so much and almost felt a little sad that the IIHF Women's Worlds were over. But seeing the PWHL game again after such a long break reminded me why a professional regular season can be so much fun. The pace is freer, the stakes are different, and there's a lot of opportunity for different players to step up. 24 games in a season is so short, but between 30 and 40 would be a sweet spot in the future (please hockey gods never subject me to an 82-game women's hockey season like in the NHL). These last few games are going to be a ride. Welcome back PWHL!

VP's Player of the Game

Sophie Jaques – With three assists and 2 shots on net, both of which very nearly went in, it would be hard to pick anybody else who wasn't awarded one of the game's three stars already. Jaques' offense was very nearly the difference-maker for Minnesota in this game.

(Photo: PWHL)