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Poulin, Ouellette lead Les Canadiennes to win over Toronto Furies

Montreal dominates Toronto to take a 1-0 series lead with a chance to clinch later today

Shanna Martin

Prior to the playoffs, Les Canadiennes forward Marie-Philip Poulin said that it was a new season.

It may be, but it was more of the same from the CWHL MVP candidate. She had two third period goals to go with two second period assists for a four point night to give Montreal the all important first win in the best-of-three semi-final series to determine who moves on to the Clarkson Cup championship in Ottawa.

It wasn't easy from the start for Montreal as the game was scoreless after one despite outshooting Toronto 14-5. But in the locker room after the first period, the team settled down.

"We weren't happy with our first period," said Canadiennes goaltender Charline Labonté. "There were adjustments to make."

"It was our first playoff game, at home, and we were playing on our heels," said Poulin. "We wanted to play Les Canadiennes hockey and I think we did that in the second and third."

"We knew we could have been better, it wasn't the start we wanted to have," said Ouellette. "Early on they had a scoring chance and I think it put us on our heels. We needed to play with a bit more urgency and that's what we did in the second."

Montreal had scoring chances throughout the first 28 minutes but couldn't beat Toronto goaltender Christina Kessler until Poulin cut a clearing attempt off on the right side boards, made a cross ice pass to Kim Deschênes who in turn made a beautiful pass to the slot where Ann-Sophie Bettez had a wide open net.

"The first goal was huge. It gave us a lot of confidence, a lot of energy," said Ouellette. "We were a little bit tense. It's playoff time you can feel as confident as you want but the regular season doesn't matter anymore and everybody is going to give their best."

Montreal would make it 2-0 on the power play 2:41 later when Ouellette tipped a Poulin point shot. Ouellette would score her second of the game on a top corner shot after a wrap around to make it 3-0 before the second period ended.

Poulin would take over in the third when she scored on a 1-on-4 when she walked into the Toronto zone and fired a snap shot past Kessler and converted a beautiful cross ice pass from Lauriane Rougeau on the back door.

The fifth goal would chase Kessler from the game as coach Sommer West likely gave her a chance to rest with a must-win game coming up and the current one out of reach. Sonja van der Bliek would finish the game and was perfect on her six shots faced.

Natalie Spooner would score from the slot to put Toronto on the board 8:40 into the final period.

For all the exploits offensively, Montreal was just as solid defensively. Poulin, Bettez and Deschênes were matched up with Spooner's line most of the night and largely kept her at bay even though her skill did get her several opportunities.

The defence also did their part. Cathy Chartrand broke up a three-on-one Toronto break in the second period when the game was still scoreless minutes before Bettez opened the scoring. It was a play that could have changed the game.

Montreal outshot Toronto 34-15 and Labonté was solid when she had to be, especially as the game went on without a goal.

Game two of the series goes this evening at 5:00 p.m. at the Complexe Bell in Brossard. You can purchase tickets here or at the door but availability is limited. If you can't make the game, it will be broadcast on Sportsnet 360 in Canada and on for those outside.

A Montreal win would clinch a spot in the March 11 championship game at the Canadian Tire Centre. If Toronto evens the series, a decisive third game will be played Sunday afternoon.