PWHL FINALS RECAP: Boston Shut Out by Minnesota, 3-0, in Game 2

Boston's first defeat of the playoffs comes via a Game 2 shutout.

PWHL FINALS RECAP: Boston Shut Out by Minnesota, 3-0, in Game 2
Hilary Knight drive the net while Sophie Jaques chases. Photo by Michael Riley/PWHL Boston.

Boston suffered their first defeat on the playoffs last night after they failed to capitalize on chances in a tightly-contested effort against Minnesota.

After the game, Boston head coach Courtney Kessel praised her team’s fight but admonished their lack of power play punch after they failed to convert on four opportunities.

“I thought we battled til the end,” said Kessel. “I think we saw that at the end of our season, we were fighting to get in the playoff and were fighting for every second, so we’re going to continue to see that out of our group."

She continued, "I think our hope is that at some point our power play can put a puck in the back of the net...I think when you get a chance that late in the game and you’re down two you really need that to go in. But, we never gave up, so I think that’s the most important thing.”

Boston started the game stronger, but they couldn’t get anything past Nicole Hensley, who made her first start since Game 1 of the semifinals. However, Minnesota surged near the end of the period and opened the scoring after a Michela Cava pass attempt took a funky bounce off Megan Keller's stick and past Aerin Frankel. It was the second straight game that Cava opened the scoring.

Not even two minutes later, Sophie Jaques–who played seven games with Boston before being traded for Susanna Tapani and Abby Cook on February 11–finished a great play with a purposeful low shot through traffic to make it 2-0 Minnesota.

Susanna Tapani took the game’s first penalty shortly after, which Boston killed with relative ease, partially thanks to a strong effort from Hilary Knight to outmuscle through three Minnesota players and bleed time by pinning the puck in the corner. The first period ended soon after with Minnesota leading 2-0 but shots even at seven.

Just over two minutes into the second, controversy struck when Jess Healey thought she pulled Boston within one. However, the call on the ice was no goal and after extensive video reviews, that call was confirmed. League PR staff later told the media that the play had been blown dead prior to the puck entering the net.

After the game, Kessel confirmed that’s what she was told by the officials, and that she heard the whistle but thought “it was a little too early.”

Minnesota got into some penalty trouble towards the end of the period, taking two in the final six minutes. However, Boston’s power play struggles continued, so they returned to the locker room still down two while getting outshot 13-12.

Boston started the third period with 23 seconds left on a power play and then they got another chance a few minutes later, but they came up empty yet again.

Controversy struck again halfway through the third, as Jessica DiGirolamo was initially called for a major penalty. However, after review, it was downgraded to a minor for charging. After watching the replay, DiGirolamo avoided significant head contact, so downgrading it to a minor was the correct call. Boston killed the two minutes off while also getting a great jailbreak look from Knight, who had perhaps her best overall game of the playoffs.

Boston’s final power play came with under five minutes remaining, and while they had some great puck movement, it still didn’t go anywhere.

“Obviously, something has to change,” said Kessel postgame. “We did a few things throughout the year, but at the end of the day, it’s going to be the death of us if we can’t a puck in the net on our power play.”

Kessel pulled Frankel with under three minutes remaining, but Jaques quickly potted an empty netter for her second of the night to finish off the scoring and even the series for Minnesota. The final shots were 22-20. 

Overall, this was a much more defensively-minded game than Game 1. Neither team got a lot of great offensive chances, but Minnesota the best of theirs while Boston failed to convert on any. It looked closer to what many expected heading into the series, with two evenly matched teams gritting it out over what will now be at least a four-game series.

After the game, Knight shared her thoughts on her team’s performance.

“I don’t think we played a bad game at all,” said Knight. “I think they were just able to capitalize on a couple of our errors there, so it’s unfortunate we couldn’t find the back of the net because Aerin Frankel stands on her head every single night for us. People are stepping up in different positions. It’s just, it’s great to have everyone activated in this game and we just didn’t find the back, and we’re going to work on that moving forward.”

Kessel later put it more succinctly while emphasizing that her team did not expect this to be an easy series.

“I think it got faster and back and forth, full-ice [as the game went on],” said Kessel. “They capitalized, we didn’t. You can’t come into a championship thinking you’re just gonna sweep so we’re ready for a battle and that’s what we saw tonight.”

The PWHL Finals continue Friday at 7 p.m. EDT at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, MN