RECAP: Montréal Loses Heartbreaker in Special Teams Battle

For the first time this season, Montréal lost two games in a row, but wasn't for a lack of effort.

RECAP: Montréal Loses Heartbreaker in Special Teams Battle
Laura Stacey scores her seventh goal of the season, via PWHL.

In front of a sold-out crowd at Place Bell, PWHL Montréal lost their second game in a row for the first time all season. It was a hard-fought game that was closer than the final score of 4-2 made it seem. Captain Marie-Philip Poulin was not available following her injury in Friday’s game against Toronto, but Mélodie Daoust played the final game of her 10-day SPA on the top line.

Ottawa earned the first marker of the night as captain Brianne Jenner scored on the power play with seven seconds remaining in the first period. Ottawa's league-leading power play was dynamic, with easy movement, crisp passes, and calm recoveries.

For the second game in a row, Montréal saw ten minor penalties in total, with five calls going against each team. They surrendered two power play goals to Ottawa and scored one of their own. Seven of the penalties occurred in the second period, but the only goal in the second came at even-strength from the stick of Daryl Watts, who was left unmarked in the slot for a single instant. It was enough time for her to wire a shot post-and-in on Ann-Renée Desbiens’ far side.

Despite not converting on their opportunities with the skater advantage in the second, Montréal did build momentum with them. Through the first half of the game, it felt like Ottawa was getting the bounces, but through persistence and effort, the ice began to feel like it was tiling in the other direction.

Montréal scored their first goal of the game on the power play midway through the third period. In contrast to Ottawa’s power play, Montréal’s units often look too cautious and defensive for the number of weapons they have. As the penalties kept coming, though, the power play looked better and better, leading to Laura Stacey’s goal. She accepted a pass along the blue line from Erin Ambrose and one-timed it past a sliding Emerance Maschmeyer.

Just over two minutes later, Ottawa scored another power play goal to reclaim their two-goal lead. After a long, physical game with little rhythm thanks to all the penalties, it felt like a moment that could have taken the wind out of Montréal’s sails. The players had worked so hard to get that first goal to start turning the tides and it was canceled out. The crowd at Bell Place was silenced.

But the players showed resilience and determination. With three minutes left and Desbiens on the bench, Mélodie Daoust scored her second goal in three games. Desbiens was called to the bench again, and there was a sense that a tying goal was not impossible.

It was not to be. With 65 seconds remaining, Gabbie Hughes scored an empty net goal to seal the win for Ottawa. The regulation loss meant that Montréal was not able to reclaim sole possession of the top spot in the standings. PWHL Toronto remains tied for first on points and ahead of Montréal on tiebreakers.

While this was no doubt a difficult loss for the home team, they will have a lot to take away from this game and a lot of time in which to work on what they need to work on. After the recent struggles of both the power play and the penalty kill, special teams will need to be an area of focus before Montréal’s next game on Sunday.

Poulin’s availability for the upcoming tilt against Toronto is as yet unknown. Her absence undoubtedly affected the game against Ottawa. Although Daoust’s presence was able to mitigate the loss of the team’s leading scorer somewhat, she will not be available on Sunday unless she signs what would be her final 10-day SPA of the regular season. If Poulin is not able to play against Toronto, the team will be looking for scoring to come from their other players.

One option for scoring could be to look outside the current roster: Montréal announced prior to Sunday’s game that they had signed Mikyla Grant-Mentis as a reserve player. The former PHF MVP played six games for Ottawa earlier this season and recorded three assists prior to being released from her contract. This week at home will allow Grant-Mentis to get reps in with the Montréal squad. Depending on the needs of the lineup, perhaps we will see Grant-Mentis signed to a 10-day SPA for Montréal in the near future.

Montréal’s next game will be in Pittsburgh, PA as the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins host the final game of the PWHL’s ‘Takeover Weekend.’ They will face PWHL Toronto at 12:30 EST on March 17.