It's amazing to think that the Calgary Inferno held top spot for most of the CWHL season and only had Rebecca Johnston play her first game last night against Les Canadiennes.
Johnston, who was last year's Angela James Bowl winner (given to the CWHL's leading scorer), missed Calgary's first 20 games with an injury. She wasted no time making up for lost time, though, scoring twice in the first period to lead Calgary to a 4-2 win.
The game broke a lot of streaks. It was Montreal's first loss in 11 games. It was the first time in 21 games Montreal was outshot. It broke Calgary's three-game losing streak to Montreal. Perhaps most importantly, it means that Calgary still has a chance to pass Montreal for first place.
Johnston opened the scoring at 15:59 of the first when she pounced on a rebound off a Brianne Jenner shot (after a great toe drag by Jenner) and put the rebound past Charline Labonté.
She scored her second of the game 2:16 later when she forced a turnover in the offensive zone, skated around the zone and put a shot past Labonté. Oh, and the goal was shorthanded.
There was a scary moment for Les Canadiennes to start the second period when Johnston and Marie-Philip Poulin got tangled up and went into the net. Johnston got a penalty on the play but Poulin was slow to get back to the bench.
Montreal pulled within one on that power play when Noémie Marin scored on the power play when a puck found her when she was all alone in the slot.
All this happened less than a minute into the period.
Poulin did return to the game and may not have even missed a shift.
It stayed 2-1 until 16:05 of the second when on the power play, Jill Saulnier roofed a backhand past Labonté to make it 3-1.
Jenner scored in the opening minute of the third to make the game 4-1.
With about five minutes remaining, Katia Clement-Heydra tipped in a Kim Deschênes pass to make it 4-2 which is how the game would end.
Les Canadiennes were without top pairing defender Julie Chu and third line center Jordanna Peroff. The two missing were noticeable as Calgary exploited the holes in Montreal's lineup with their last change. It should also be noted that Poulin wasn't on the ice for any of the Montreal goals although she did have her scoring chances.
With Johnston back in the lineup, the Inferno are stacked at forward and have four lines that they trust. Louise Warren, for instance, received power play time the last time the two teams met but was on the fourth line at even strength in Saturday's game. With no Chu and Peroff, Montreal struggled at times to keep the Inferno attack at bay.
Les Canadiennes flew into Calgary the day of the game but all teams face that travel wrinkle when going on the road. All of Montreal's three losses have come in the first game of the weekend series.
Montreal will look to avoid their first consecutive losses of the season tomorrow at 12:00 PM Eastern in the rematch. With a win, they would clinch first place in the CWHL.