Les Canadiennes against the Brampton Thunder at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard last night started in a way that Montreal isn’t used to: with Les Canadiennes trying to snap a two-game losing streak.
However, Montreal, who trailed 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 ended up winning 4-3 in overtime.
Montreal dropped a pair of contests against the Furies in Toronto last weekend, losing their first two games of the season. Coming into Saturday’s game, goaltender Charline Labonté (who didn’t play in the losses last weekend) was anxious to get back behind her teammates.
“It was hard not to be there, because I didn’t really experience it the way the girls did,” Labonté said. “I talked to them. I followed on Twitter, but you know, when things like that happen, it just really brings people together, and I was sad not to be there for that moment, even though it was two losses. There’s just something about this team, our team identity. It was a bit of a wake up call probably for everyone.”
Labonté wasted no time getting back into the game, going post to post in the first period against Brampton to make a spectacular pad save on a Courtney Birchard shot. Liz Knox, who started in goal for the Thunder, had her own chance to make an impressive save when Caroline Ouellette fired a rocket from the top of the circle, only to be stopped by Knox’s glove.
“Yeah, [she] played a hell of a game today,” said Thunder forward Jess Jones. “She definitely kept us in there. Made some great game saves for sure.”
The second period started with Les Canadiennes on the penalty kill, as Karell Emard was serving a checking penalty she took late in the first. Rebecca Vint only needed 37 seconds to find the back of the net. Jones and defender Laura Fortino picked up the assists.
A few minutes later, Cathy Chartrand fired a rocket past Knox from the blue line to even the score and notch her first goal of the season. Cassandra Poudrier and Emard picked up the helpers.
Julie Chu, who was playing in her fifth game of the season, took a two-minute minor penalty for tripping, giving Brampton the opportunity to pull ahead. Jones managed to do just that, off a feed from Fortino, giving the Thunder a 2-1 advantage.
A slashing call on Jones gave Caroline Ouellette a golden opportunity to fire one on net, a shot that Noémie Marin would tip past Knox to tie the game 2-2.
Before the period was through, Labonté flashed the leather once more, robbing Fortino of a go-ahead goal.
The third period started with head coach Dany Brunet juggling his lines, deciding to bump Emard up to the first line alongside Ouellette and captain Marie-Philip Poulin.
With Chartrand in the penalty box serving a hooking penalty, Brampton scored a weird, controversial goal. Labonté made the initial save on a Vint shot, but the puck bounced up over her shoulder and onto the top of the net, where it rested.
“I made that save and I knew it went over me, so I just turned around,” Labonté said. “I knew it was on the net. Usually, the ref would blow the whistle. I mean, I don’t want to blame them. They’re doing their jobs. I just thought maybe it was a little slow on the whistle.”
No whistle was blown on the play, and Fortino high-sticked the puck off the net from underneath, where Jones was waiting to bat it past Labonté.
“I’ve never seen a goal like that,” she said. “I mean, I was really pissed off.”
Despite the arguments of every Montreal player on the ice, the officials deemed it to be a good goal, giving the Thunder a 3-2 advantage with 18:12 to play in the third frame.
Brampton then took four straight penalties, a theme not uncommon when these two teams meet. Montreal has a knack for getting under the Thunder’s skin. Les Canadiennes weren’t able to capitalize with the first three chances with the extra attacker.
However, Poulin carried the puck in the zone, and skated through the Thunder defence and delivered a beautiful pass to Ouellette who beat Knox and evened the score.
In overtime, Jones was sent to the sin bin for slashing, serving Brampton’s fifth straight penalty. Ouellette would be the overtime hero, scoring her eighth of the season off a feed from Poulin, winning it 4-3 for Montreal, and snapping their losing streak in the process.
“We had some good chances on our powerplay,” Ouellette said after the game. “I’m happy that I was able to convert at the end. A great play by Poulin, who did a little fake. It was like Sochi reversed, where I got to be her this time.”
The overtime winner marked Ouellette’s 293rd career point, extending her lead for first all-time in CWHL history.
“It makes me feel old a little bit,” she said after the game, when asked about closing in on 300 points.
With three games left to play ahead of Montreal’s Heritage Classic against the Calgary Inferno at the Bell Centre, it remains only a question of when, not if, the future Hockey Hall of Famer will make history and hit the 300 point mark.
Montreal and Brampton will face off again this afternoon at 1:30 PM at Etienne-Desmarteau arena in Rosemont. Tickets are available at the door for $15.