Ann-Renée Desbiens made 43 saves as Montreal held on to first place with a 2-1 overtime win over Ottawa in front of a record crowd on Saturday.
The 8,646 in attendance at Place Bell set a new record for a professional women’s hockey game in Canada.
“It’s unbelievable,” Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie said of the atmosphere that comes from playing at home. “I can’t believe how loud the crowd is; sometimes you can’t even talk to the players.
“We knew what Ottawa was going to bring in terms of determination, work ethic and intensity, but this is our home and we have the best fans in the world. “It never disappoints.”
Forward Maureen Murphy scored the game-winning goal at 3:30 of overtime for the first time in the Women’s Professional Hockey League season. Laura Stacey also scored for Montreal (3-2-2-1).
When asked how it felt to score for the first time in her professional career, Murphy chose to divert attention to the stellar performance of her teammate Desbiens.
“I think (Desbiens) really solidified the game for us,” Murphy said. “I mean, that goal won’t happen unless she makes 40-plus unrealistic saves.”
One of the NCAA’s best players, Murphy was among the last to sign a contract with Montreal, but she has been a rising star since making her debut and is now in a four-way tie for most points in the league. .
On the front line, alongside Murphy and captain Marie-Philip Poulin, was substitute player Catherine Dubois. While Tereza Vanišová remained sidelined with an injury, Dubois signed her second 10-day contract earlier that same day.
Dubois played a strong game and meshed well with her linemates, despite winning two straight under twos at the end of the first.
“She creates a lot of space for people and is eager to get pucks in the corners,” Cheverie said. “She’s willing to defend the Poulin and Murphy shooters and we’re also trying to find some chemistry with all of our lines. She made sense for us as a team.”
One thing that stood out on both sides on Saturday was goaltending, with Desbiens staying true to his nickname “the Wall.”
Ottawa goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer made 22 saves and deflected a Stacey penalty to limit Montreal to just one goal in regulation.
Hayley Scamurra scored the lone goal for Ottawa (2-0-3-1), which came into the rematch looking for revenge after Montreal won 3-2 in overtime in both teams’ PWHL opener at TD Place on January 2nd. .
Stacey opened the scoring with a wraparound pass assisted by defender Erin Ambrose at 13:37 of the first period.
Although shots on goal were tight heading into the second, it didn’t take Ottawa long to take the lead. Despite the scoreless period, the visiting team’s offense had twice as many shots at the end of the second.
Cheverie says his team will have to work to refine the details of the stick to prevent this from moving forward.
“They’re number one. They stick to the puck, instead of containing,” he said. “We have great players stepping back; We have people protecting the slot. Many times when things break, it has to do with individual attention to detail and not necessarily the existing structure. “A lot of the attention will be on the details of the stick.”
Ottawa’s momentum continued in the third when Scamurra tied things at 6:10 on assists from Brianne Jenner and Savannah Harmon.
Murphy later buried his winner to secure Montreal’s position at the top of the standings.
Despite the loss, Ottawa coach Carla MacLeod had only positive things to say about her team’s performance.
“I thought we put together a pretty good game this afternoon,” he said. “You’re always trying to grow, and I thought the areas we discussed before the game and worked on over the last two weeks showed up today.”
Eight players who played on Saturday will represent the league in the PWHL 3-on-3 Showcase during the NHL All-Star Weekend on Feb. 1 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto.
Montreal’s Desbiens and Poulin join Ottawa’s Harmon on Team King. Montreal’s Ambrose and Stacey team up with Ottawa’s Emily Clark, Jenner and Maschmeyer on Team Kloss.
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