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PWHL

Montreal Skates Into The Abyss

Marie-Philip Poulin skates
Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images

What's worse than going down 2-0 in a best-of-five series where you have home-ice advantage? Going down 2-0 in a best-of-five series where you have home-ice advantage after playing 111 minutes of cutthroat hockey. In a nearly five-hour epic that featured just three total goals, it was PWHL Boston who survived to take a commanding lead in their playoff semifinal, crushing Montreal in Quebec with a game-winner from Taylor Wenczkowski just as the clock struck midnight.

Thanks to standout crease play from Aerin Frankel and Ann-Renée Desbiens, who combined for 106 saves, goals were a distant memory by the time we hit triple overtime. But through the extra periods, Montreal rued their best scoring chance of the long stalemate, which came at the very end of regulation. And by "best scoring chance," I mean, "the puck literally went in the net." But after a long review, Kristin O'Neill's diving poke at a loose puck that was nearly hidden by Frankel's pads didn't count, because the referee was perhaps a little too eager to blow the whistle.

Overtime felt like the perfect stage for Marie-Philip Poulin, Canada's longtime Captain Clutch and Montreal's points leader, to make her indelible mark on this new league. In the first overtime, Montreal had no shortage of opportunity thanks to seven minutes worth of power play time. But the player advantage, even on the five-minute major, didn't actually spark much urgency, and we stayed at one-all. In the second overtime, the game got exhausting and loopy, with turnovers in the late stages stimulating intense but ultimately fruitless back-and-forth attacks. Boston had its own near-goal reviewed in the final 30 seconds of this fifth period—which lasted nearly the entirely of "Don't Stop Believin'" as it played over the sound system—but this, too, pretty uncontroversially, didn't bring us a conclusion.

The third OT delivered some absurd Montreal chances, like this pad-to-helmet deflection that almost hit the target.

But the dagger hit their backs after Boston won a faceoff in the attacking zone. Sidney Morin took the puck around the back of the net, then centered it for Wenczkowski after drawing an extra defender. The former Boston Pride playoff hero in a previous league wouldn't be denied, first fighting for position directly in front of Desbiens and finally converting after her first chance was blocked.

Montreal's fans, to their credit, saluted the players even as they left the ice devastated. But all the emotional support in the world can't change the difficulty of their mission. Both Boston and Toronto, holding commanding leads in their series, just have to win one of their next three to meet in the final. After back-to-back overtime losses, all Montreal can do is travel to Massachusetts, physically and mentally drained, and take the words of Steve Perry to heart.

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