Les Canadiennes will remember their first trip to China, but they may want to forget it for the impact that it had in the standings.
Montreal dropped their final game of their four game trip 3-0 to the Kunlun Red Star on Friday morning. Noora Räty made 17 saves for the shutout. Emerance Maschmeyer, starting her fourth game of the trip, made 16 saves.
Despite the loss, Montreal is still in first place, but its position is a precarious one. They are two points up on Kunlun with two games remaining (at home March 10-11 against Calgary), but the Red Star have three games remaining (all against the Vanke Rays, battling for the final playoff spot with the Markham Thunder. One of the games will be in China, the final two in Massachusetts as they make their way to North America to prepare for the playoffs). To make matters worse, the Calgary Inferno are three points behind but they have four games remaining (two at Markham this weekend, and the two in Montreal).
The top two teams host a playoff series. If Kunlun hosts, the game will be played in a neutral site in North America.
CWHL season is 28 games. Top four teams make the playoffs. Semi-finals are best-of-three hosted by the top team (1 vs 4, 2 vs 3).
On Friday, Kunlun opened the scoring with two goals two minutes apart in the first period. Stephanie Anderson scored her sixth goal of the season on the power play. Kelli Stack scored her 25th goal exactly two minutes apart at 11:32 of the period to open a 2-0 lead. Stack, the CWHL's leading scorer, had an assist on Anderson's goal.
With under five minutes remaining in the second period, Kunlun made the lead insurmountable when Rachel Llanes scored her fourth goal of the year.
Montreal had four power play opportunities, including two in the third period, but couldn't capitalize.
They will now return home and get set for a huge series against Calgary which will likely decide which of the teams host a playoff series this year. Saturday's game is the team's annual Pink in the Rink game which raises money for the Cedars Breast Clinic at the McGill University Health Centre. Sunday's game will be broadcast nationwide on Sportsnet.
Tickets are available here.