Still Hanging Around: Boston 2, Ottawa 3 (SO)
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Still Hanging Around: Boston 2, Ottawa 3 (SO)

Still Hanging Around: Boston 2, Ottawa 3 (SO) by Zoë Hayden

In a crucial matchup to decide who claims the final #4 playoff seed, Ottawa was able to come away with two points to put some space between them and Boston with a game-in-hand.

What happened?

Hilary Knight struck first and early for Boston, going to the net off of an offensive zone faceoff that Hannah Brandt pushed forward instead of back. The puck was behind Emerance Maschmeyer on that set play, and it was 1-0. Ottawa promptly took a bench minor for too many players and while Boston held possession well, they didn't look particularly threatening to extend their lead.

When Ottawa got a chance of their own, Brianne Jenner was there to get another goal for them, rushing to the front of the net to backhand the puck behind Aerin Frankel off a rebound, basically uncontested. It was then a bit of a shooting gallery on Frankel, with Ottawa's top line getting chance after chance – but no one was able to convert, including Jenner on another point-blank opportunity.

While Boston didn't convert on yet another power play, they had their looks and forced Maschmeyer to make some strong saves through traffic. While Ottawa was attempting to clear the zone, Jamie Lee Rattray squeezed the puck along the boards to stop Aneta Tejralová's breakout. Rattray was all alone and was able to find space five-hole on Emerance Maschmeyer to take the lead with less than a minute left in the first period.

Early in the second, Mrázová was tripped by Sophie Shirley and Ottawa went back to the power play, but it was a much better kill for Boston, making the home team's zone entries painful, and then Boston was headed back to the advantage. While they came tantalizingly close to scoring a few times, Kaleigh Fratkin tripped Hayley Scamurra who almost had the puck shorthanded near Frankel – and it was another Boston PP. Maschmeyer had to make an outstanding shorthanded save with her left pad on Keller, and Boston was almost off to the races yet again off the next faceoff.

After all of that, still the score remained the same.

Boston turned it on late in the period again, with Knight creating a potential 2-on-1 chance with Rattray, but Maschmeyer stood tall to it.

The third period started with both Frankel and Maschmeyer having to make even more outstanding saves. Both teams were pushing hard and Boston was demonstrating a quicker transition style than we've seen from them most of the time this season and continued to threaten, but Ottawa was patient, and created something off the rush. Emily Clark entered the zone with speed and beat Emily Brown, throwing it to the net where Gabbie Hughes was waiting to poke it home, and it was tied 2-2.

It was still a goalie show in OT, including a particularly stunning sequence where Frankel stopped Daryl Watts, twice, as she drove the net with purpose. Overtime wasn't enough, though, and a shootout ensued.

Ottawa shot first with Mrázová, who came in slow and changed up her speed, faking out Aerin Frankel to bury the puck. Brandt followed with a quick shot that beat Maschmeyer to tie the contest. The next six shooters were stopped (Jincy Roese, Brandt again, Daryl Watts, Hilary Knight, Brianne Jenner, and Jamie Lee Rattray). Carla MacLeod called Mrázová's name again, who came down along the other side of the ice, still at a slow speed, and used a subtle head fake and some fancy stickwork to beat Frankel again.

Knight shot on Maschmeyer, needing to score to keep the shootout going, but Masch got a piece of it and it glanced off the post, giving Ottawa their first-ever victory in extra time and keeping them in the #4 playoff spot.

Three up, three down

↑ Kateřina Mrázová – Mrázová missed the IIHF Women's World Championship after sustaining an injury in an exhibition game, and missed Ottawa's first game after the break, but was able to return to the lineup against Boston. She was stickhandling in tight spaces all night and buzzing with linemates Jenner and Watts; she also went 66.7% in the faceoff circle and scored twice in the shootout to give Ottawa the victory.

↓ Curses – The last major curse of the inaugural PWHL regular season has been exorcised, as Ottawa got their first victory in extra time or a shootout in franchise history. Prior to Wednesday, they had gone 0 for 6 on the season in games that extended beyond regulation.

↑ Megan Keller – This was probably the best two-way game I've seen Megan Keller play in some time. She always jumps up and threatens offensively, but she had an extra gear in this game with several huge scoring chances. She was also dazzling defensively, blocking shots and retrieving the puck well from dangerous situations. In a tough loss for Boston, she was perhaps their best skater.

↓ Boston special teams, still – Boston couldn't capitalize on three power play opportunities, which all came when they could have extended their lead or taken the lead, while Brianne Jenner was able to score a quick power play goal for Ottawa to tie the game in the first.

↑ Goalie battles – This game was perhaps a preview of what goaltending is going to look like in the playoffs and that's very exciting. Both teams were playing loose and trying to find offense, which meant more odd-player chances than usual in this game. The level of goaltending in this league is so elite across the board and for every brilliant scoring opportunity there is always a chance of a spectacular, game-changing save. We've seen it all season, but both Maschmeyer and Frankel were excellent on Wednesday night and really put on a show at TD Place.

↓ Chances to overtake – Boston sits 3 points back from Ottawa, with just two games remaining, while Ottawa has three games remaining. Ottawa is also just three points back from Minnesota. New York is the only team that has been eliminated from playoff contention, but the margins for the rest of the standings are razor thin and not a lot of games remain. It's really going to come down to the wire.

Boston only has two more opportunities to get points in the standings – against Minnesota and Montreal. Ottawa will play Montreal, New York, and Toronto to close out their season.

VP's Player of the Game

Brianne Jenner – Ottawa's captain has 13 points in her last 7 games and is on a four-game goal-scoring streak dating back to March 20. She's really been Ottawa's best player in this playoff hunt late in the season and it's been special to watch.

(Photo: Andrea Cardin/Freestyle Photography/PWHL)