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Caroline Ouellette, Les Canadiennes put it all on the line in Clarkson Cup win

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Montreal played like there was no tomorrow because, well, there might not be one

Shanna Martin / Eyes on the Prize

It all started with a block.

The scoresheet will show that Marie-Philip Poulin’s empty net goal was assisted by Julie Chu but it wouldn’t have happened if not for Caroline Ouellette’s blocked shot.

Right after that block, Chu picked up the puck, passed it to Poulin and the rest, as they say, is history.

Nobody knows if Sunday’s Clarkson Cup triumph by Les Canadiennes was the final game of Caroline Ouellette’s illustrious career - maybe not even Ouellette herself. But if this was the last goal she was on the ice for, it was a heck of a shift.

Ouellette, along with Poulin and Ann-Sophie Bettez played around 3:24 of the final 5:14 of the third period, most of it protecting a one goal lead. That is close to 65 per cent.

That included a 1:38 shift which Calgary controlled the puck in the offensive zone for 1:20. They got to the bench and sat for around five seconds. Then there was a TV timeout and they were sent right back out there.

That next shift was when they scored the empty net goal.

“In the third, Calgary has a great team. They have so many national team players so we were a bit more in defensive mode, but girls were willing to block shots and sacrifice their bodies and I think that is from every player and what I want to do in my game as well. It worked out and I’m so proud.”

It was a change in tone from a year earlier. Ouellette noted the difference on her own, walking towards the waiting media, pointing out that she was a lot happier than she was last year, walking into the same room.

And it seemed like the win re-energized Ouellette in the same way the loss a year earlier took a lot out of her. You could say that even though she was a year closer to retirement, she was farther than ever. And that makes sense. When you are on top of the hockey world, you never want to leave it. And the year before, after the loss, she was very far from that.

After the game on Sunday, French TV asked Ouellette on the ice if winning the Clarkson Cup would be a great way to go out, and Ouellette said yes, but when asked to elaborate, she chose not to. She did the same thing on L’Antichambre on RDS on Tuesday, like she did to the rest of the media after the game.

You have to be naive to think that Ouellette is not near the end of her career, but if it really is a year-to-year decision - and Ouellette said she’d see how she felt at the end of the summer - you can see why the urgency was there. You can see why she put everything on the line.

They say to act like you’ve been there before. For Ouellette and some of the other Canadiennes, they won the Clarkson Cup because they played like they’d never be back.