PWHL Semifinals - Game 3: Minnesota 2, Toronto 0
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PWHL Semifinals - Game 3: Minnesota 2, Toronto 0

PWHL Semifinals - Game 3: Minnesota 2, Toronto 0 by Melissa Burgess

PWHL Minnesota gave Toronto a taste of their own medicine, outperforming their opponent and nabbing an impressive 2-0 win on Monday to cut the best-of-five series to 2-1.

What happened?

Minnesota needed three things heading into Monday's game: to shut down the Toronto offense, find a way to beat Kristen Campbell, and overall, play their best game of the season. Check, check, and check.

To be fair, Toronto seemed to just come out flat. They dominated puck possession early on, but couldn't get a shot on net until more than halfway through the first period. Minnesota had two power play opportunities, one pretty much right after the other, but couldn't capitalize. However, they held Toronto to just two shots on goal in the opening frame, and the game remained scoreless through twenty.

Although Toronto initially looked better to start the second period, they still weren't firing on all cylinders. It wasn't a huge surprise, then, given how lopsided the game was at that point, when Minnesota went up 1-0 just 2:12 in. Maggie Flaherty blasted a snipe from the point, beating Campbell on the blocker side. Campbell was screened on the play with several players in front of her.

Flaherty's was a huge goal, and the scales continued to tip in Minnesota's favor as Toronto still didn't look very sharp. Denisa Křížová doubled the lead at 8:39 of the second period, capitalizing on a loose puck in front of the net that came off a rebound. Campbell stopped the shot and then stood up, perhaps not realizing that Křížová was bearing down on her. It was an easy tap-in for Křížová's first of the playoffs.

More than halfway through the game, Toronto still had only managed six shots on goal. Desperation seemed to set in a bit in the third period as they found ways to get pucks on net, but things still weren't quite lining up for them. They squandered a big power play opportunity early in the third and despite out-shooting Minnesota 8-4 in the final frame, couldn't get it done.

Taylor Heise scored on the empty net late, but the goal was immediately waived off on a delayed offside call. Regardless, Minnesota didn't need it. They hung on for the shutout win.

Three up, three down

↑ Minnesota's best game yet – For a team that didn't know until the final day of the season if they were even going to make it in, this Minnesota team looked the part of a playoff team. It was a massive improvement from the first two games in Toronto and while they're still on the brink of elimination, they stopped their opponent cold and gave themselves a fighting chance in the series.

↓ Spooner's injury – Toronto forward & PWHL leading scorer Natalie Spooner was injured in the third period after taking a big hit from Grace Zumwinkle at the boards in front of the bench. The hit itself looked clean, but Spooner's leg appeared to get caught underneath her as she fell. She ended up crawling onto the bench before eventually limping off with assistance. We'll have to wait & see what her status is going forward, but if she were to miss any time, it would be a big loss.

↑ Solving Campbell – After being shutout in the first two games of the series, Minnesota knew it had to find a way to beat Kristen Campbell. Campbell's shutout streak eventually ended at 175:46 (including some regular season time) and Minnesota broke its own goal drought at 159:51.

↓ Questionable officiating – still – Between an odd hooking call on Toronto's Renata Fast and a missed tripping call later in the period, there were definitely some questionable officiating moments in Monday's game. Unfortunately, this is nothing new, but the last thing any team or league needs is for the officiating to help decide the outcome of a game.

↑ Schepers with a pair of assists – Liz Schepers only had three points, all assists, in 19 regular season games, so the fact that she notched two helpers in Monday's playoff game was extra impressive. She recorded primary assists on both of Minnesota's goals.

↓ Toronto's play – Head coach Troy Ryan called the first period "one of our worst periods of the season," which is both wild (because it wasn't even that bad) and accurate (only two shots on goal!) Overall, Toronto didn't look like the team we've seen since they turned their season around, and what could've been a chance to close out the series turned into a flop.

VP's Player of the Game

Maddie Rooney – We typically give this to someone who isn't one of the official three stars of the game, but Rooney deserves a special call-out for turning Minnesota's playoff hopes around. She stopped all 18 shots faced in her first shutout since March 3. She now has a 0.50 GAA in the playoffs and a 0.979 save percentage, after allowing one goal in Game 2 on 29 shots.

  • Game replay link (YouTube) – The PWHL has started posting "condensed game archive" video, after taking their videos private after broadcast as of late. Check their video uploads page for the game archive content as it becomes available. (This game is not yet as of press time.)
  • Game data

(Photo: Kelly Hagenson/PWHL)