A crazy third period that saw three goals in the final five minutes led to a shootout that Les Canadiennes used to beat the Brampton Thunder 5-4 in an instant classic on Saturday at the Boisbriand arena.
Marie-Philip Poulin scored two goals in regulation, plus the only goal in a shootout in the win, but the game only reached the extra frame thanks to an unlikely goal from an unlikely source.
Canadiennes captain Cathy Chartrand's shot from the slot found its way in the net past Brampton goaltender Erica Howe with 28.4 seconds remaining to tie the game. Chartrand didn't even realize her shot went in, taking a minute before jumping in the air and having her teammates join her. It was her second goal of the season.
"It was just a relief," said Chartrand. "It didn't matter who scored it, I was just so happy we fought back, we didn't give up the whole game."
The goal was officially a short-handed goal scored 5 on 5 with Charline Labonté pulled for the extra skater. The comeback looked to be thwarted when Ann-Sophie Bettez took a interference penalty in the offensive zone with 1:42 remaining.
It was never easy for Montreal. They entered the third period trailing 3-2 and finally tied the game with five minutes remaining in the frame when Bettez pickpocketed a Brampton defender with an incredible forecheck and made a perfect pass to the slot where Poulin blasted a shot past Howe.
However, just 1:44 later, Brampton took their lead back when Laura Fortino beat Labonté to put Brampton back on top 4-3.
"That's hockey," said Poulin. "For us to show resiliency and come back was important. It was a great team win."
It was a special day for Canadiennes goaltender Charline Labonté. The game was played in the arena where she grew up playing. There was a huge banner welcoming her back home and she was the last Canadienne announced in the starting lineup when she is usually first. She also took part in the ceremonial faceoff and instead of the opposing captain, Brampton's starting goaltender Howe opposed her.
"This is where I grew up, this is the rink I learned to play goalie," Labonté said. "It's very special to come back but I feel terrible because it was a bad game on my part but that's what is so amazing about this team. When someone is struggling, there's someone there to pick them up and tonight it was me. That's what makes us special. It's not always good, it can be bad sometimes."
"We came into the arena and we see Charlie on that big sign and we wanted to do it for Charlie and we did it for her," said Marie-Philip Poulin.
Photo Credit: Shanna Martin
Labonté allowed four goals on 21 shots before shutting the door on all three Brampton shootout attempts.
"I'm comfortable in shootouts so for me that was my time to shine," she said about the reprieve that Chartrand's equalizer gave her. "I just needed one goal and I knew I could shut it down."
Brampton opened the scoring in the first period when Rebecca Vint forced a turnover in the Montreal zone and shot the puck over Labonté. They took a 2-0 lead 45 seconds into the second period when Sarah Edney scored.
Montreal fought back to within one when Poulin scored her first of the game. Brampton made the game 3-1 shorthanded when Fortino and Courtney Birchard broke in on a 2-on-1 and Birchard put home Fortino's pass. However, before the second period ended Montreal got that goal back on the same power play when Bettez put home a rebound off a Poulin shot to make it 3-2 after 40 minutes.
This game was Montreal's hardest fought win on the year, and extended their winning streak to 10 games. The players feel it was good to face this kind of adversity with the playoffs quickly approaching.
"We want to face adversity so it helps us to grow our game and make sure when the playoffs hit we're ready for this type of situation," Chartrand said. "It was an emotional game and to have this kind of game against a tough opponent it's definitely going to help us down the road."
"We're all racing for first place. When things are too easy it comes back to bite you," Labonté said. "This what we need sometimes, a little mental check and realize we're not that great and we still have work to do. They may have wanted it more than us, and they are a skilled team but I think we will remember that when we hit hard times in the playoffs or in the Clarkson Cup."
With the win, Montreal moved to four points ahead of Calgary and five ahead of Brampton with five games remaining on the season. They play Brampton today at 1:30 p.m. at the Complexe Bell in Brossard before another big weekend series in Calgary next week and finally closing the regular season against Boston on February 20 and 21.
Today's game will be broadcast on CWHL Live.