Prior to the start of Les Canadiennes semifinal series with the Brampton Thunder, assistant coach Lisa-Marie Breton-Lebreux said that special teams would be key.
She was proven right. In game one, Montreal scored five powerplay goals en route to a 7-1 victory over Brampton.
“They got a lot of penalties, and we took advantage of it,” goaltender Charline Labonté said after the game. “Our powerplay was really great.”
Montreal’s power play was 5/11 on the night, Labonté had a great game as well, making 24 saves and being named the game’s third star, in large part because of a flashy show-stopping glove save in the second period.
“It looks good. I don’t know, maybe I was out of position a little bit, but still... I’ll take it,” she said with a chuckle.
Secondary scoring was also key for Montreal, who got offence from players beyond the usual suspects, including two goals each from Karell Emard and Kim Deschênes.
Although Caroline Ouellette, Ann-Sophie Bettez, and Marie-Philip Poulin did not score, they combined for five assists with Poulin picking up three assists.
Defender Cathy Chartrand rocketed one past Thunder goalie Erica Howe, as did rookie Sarah Lefort, who was competing in her first CWHL playoff game.
“It’s a big first win, but we have to refocus and we know we have another big game tomorrow,” she said.
Montreal opened the scoring with two first period goals, one on the power play from Deschênes and one just as it expired from Lefort.
Jamie Lee Rattray was the only Brampton player who managed to beat Labonté, although there were several missed opportunities for Thunder. Rattray’s goal had made the game 2-1 in the second period, but Brampton’s indiscipline allowed the Canadiennes power play to open the game up.
Montreal had two more power play goals in the second to open up a 4-1 lead, and then three more in the third, including two more power play goals in the final 1:26.
Although the Canadiennes could have been called for more than their three penalties throughout the game, the majority of the 15 Brampton penalties, including three 10-minute misconducts, were legitimate.
Already known for their physical play, with frustrations mounting, things got a little rough towards the end of the game, with Jessica Hartwick punching Deschênes after she scored her second of the night with less than a minute remaining in the game.
“I think it did kind of get out of hand,” said Katia Clement-Heydra, who had Montreal’s third goal of the night. “We were a bit worried. You always have to keep your head up when it gets that way. In the last minute I was like, ‘can this game please end?’ because it was getting there.”
Brampton will have a chance at redemption in a must-win game if they want to keep their Clarkson Cup dreams alive. Game two will be played at the Bell Sports Complex in Brossard at 5:30 PM. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online here, and the game can be streamed for free online here.