By Daniel Rainbird, The Canadian Press on January 20, 2024.
MONTREAL – Lauriane Rougeau scored the shootout winner as Toronto edged Montreal 4-3 in the first Professional Women’s Hockey League game between the two rival cities on Saturday night at Verdun Auditorium.
Toronto snapped a three-game losing streak despite heroic efforts from Montreal captain Marie-Philip Poulin and goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens in front of 3232 fans at Verdun Auditorium.
Maggie Connors – with a goal and an assist – Natalie Spooner and Jocelyne Larocque scored in regulation for Toronto (1-1-0-4), while Rebecca Leslie earned two assists.
Kristen Campbell stopped 21 shots in her sixth start this season. Campbell entered the game with a league-worst .876 save percentage.
Poulin scored twice, including a goal-of-the-year candidate with 22 seconds left in regulation to tie the game, while Desbiens made 36 saves for Montreal (2-1-2-1). Sarah Bujold also scored for the home team.
Spooner scored with 1:24 left in the third period to give Toronto a late lead.
Then, with the goalie pulled, Poulin – known as “Captain Clutch” for shining late in games – took it into her own hands.
The 32-year-old superstar corralled the puck from the neutral zone and danced through Toronto’s defence before tucking a shot past Campbell to cap the solo effort and force overtime.
Campbell denied Poulin from getting the hat trick with two big saves while Montreal was on the power play in overtime.
Poulin scored in one of four attempts in the shootout, while goals from Hannah Miller and Rouge gave Toronto the win in the sixth round.
Down 2-1 after 40 minutes, Toronto evened the score at 2:32 of the third period as Connors scored her first with a wrist shot past Desbiens.
Jesse Compher appeared to give Toronto its first lead of the game with eight minutes left in regulation by scoring after a scramble in front of the net, but the whistle blew just before the puck crossed the goal line.
Bujold opened the scoring with her first of the season by pouncing on a rebound after Leah Lum shot at 11:21 of the first period.
Toronto otherwise drove the play throughout the frame and outshot Montreal 14-6, but ran into a dialed-in Desbiens.
With under four minutes left in the first, Natalie Spooner created a turnover in the offensive zone and cut to the net, only to meet Desbiens’ left pad. Spooner followed up with a rebound chance at the side of the net, but a sprawling Desbiens, who lost her stick on the previous play, stretched her leg out to make a save.
Desbiens, of Clermont, Que., turned away an ensuing one-timer from Sarah Nurse to bring the fans to their feet.
Montreal’s netminder was back at it in the second, stopping Spooner on the doorstep again to keep Montreal up one.
Larocque broke through on Toronto’s 18th shot at 3:01 of the period after a centring pass from Leslie – leading to a loud reaction from a section of visiting supporters in the corner.
Poulin restored Montreal’s lead with a breakaway goal at 8:20. The captain picked up the puck in the neutral zone, flew down the middle of the ice and beat Campbell blocker-side.
Desbiens then withstood constant pressure for the remainder of the period as Toronto led the shots 29-16 at the end of the second.
Both teams sit at the bottom of the league in power-play efficiency. Toronto entered the game with one goal in 14 opportunities, while Montreal had scored once in 16. Toronto went 0-for-1 on Saturday, while Montreal was 0-for-4.
Forward Kennedy Marchment and defender Dominika Laskova re-entered Montreal’s lineup after missing Tuesday’s game against New York. Brigitte Laganiere and Madison Bizal did not play.
Toronto forward Samantha Cogan drew into the lineup for Jess Jones. Olivia Knowles played for the first time since Jan. 10.
Montreal: Visits Minnesota on Wednesday.
Toronto: Wraps up a two-game road trip on Tuesday in Ottawa.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 20, 2024.
Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version erroneously had the name “Rouge” in the headline. The name was in fact “Rougeau.”