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PWHL: Desbiens is très bien as Montreal shuts out Ottawa, clinches home-ice advantage in Round 1

Ann-Renée Desbiens made 31 saves in the shutout win. (Photo Credit: PWHL)

No NCAA goaltender, male or female, had more shutouts than Ann-Renée Desbiens in her time at the University of Wisconsin which is why it was so glaring that through 28 career regular season and playoff games in the CWHL, PWHPA, and PWHL she did not have one. That is, until game 29 on Saturday afternoon.

Desbiens made 31 saves, including 21 in the third period as Montreal defeated Ottawa 2-0 at TD Place in the nation’s capital. The regulation win combined with Minnesota’s regulation loss against Boston meant that Montreal clinched home-ice advantage in the first round in the playoffs.

They also moved into first place, three points ahead of Toronto. Toronto has two games in hand, however.

The first period saw plenty of back and forth action, punctuated by three Montreal power plays and one for Ottawa. Both goaltenders stood tall, making eight saves a piece.

Desbiens was tested while Ottawa had the advantage. Daryl Watts had a chance breaking through the Montreal defence, and she made some key saves on Natalie Snodgrass to keep the game 0-0.

“It was some real playoff hockey,” Desbiens said. “It was physical and intense. Ottawa did everything they could to put it in the net.”

Montreal’s power play had trouble finding the multiple options they have used to turn things around over the last three games. Ottawa put a lot of pressure on the puck handler and got in passing lanes.

Maschmeyer’s best save was on a Laura Stacey breakaway, who was alone from the blue line in but she made the pad save. Another Montreal chance went off the post just a few moments before when Stacey found O’Neill in the slot, but her shot rang off the post.

Stacey ended up scoring the game’s first goal when Catherine Dubois generated a turnover behind the net and fed the puck into the middle of the offensive zone allowing Stacey to walk into a slap shot past Maschmeyer. It was Stacey’s 10th goal of the season, one behind her professional career high. The goal came 3:13 into the second period.

Stacey created more shortly after, using her frame to forecheck and generate turnovers, but Maschmeyer was able to keep the puck out as the line of Marie-Philip Poulin, Kristin O’Neill, and Stacey kept generating.

“I think that all games will be tight until the end,” Stacey said. “It’s going to be tough. It won’t always be pretty. I honestly don’t know how it will be possible to have more intense games in the playoffs, because this is incredible.”

Midway through the second, Ottawa had some chances, but Montreal’s new emphasis on blocking shots came through again, neither Ottawa shot from a dangerous spot made it to Desbiens, and Montreal went most of the period without a shot getting on goal. The first shot on Desbiens in the second period, came almost 13 minutes into the frame.

Montreal played just about a perfect period, outshooting Ottawa 10-2 and taking the lead in the middle frame. The period used to be their worst but they have turned it around in the last two games.

Ottawa started off the third period with as many shots in the first minute as they had in the entire second period, but nothing overly troubling for Desbiens.

Montreal had a bit more trouble on an extended shift about five minutes into the period. After a long shift, including an icing, the team was chasing Ottawa in the defensive zone. Erin Ambrose dove to block a passing lane and finally get a full change

With 14 minutes left, a Emily Clark backhand was saved by Desbiens and the rebound went right to Hayley Scamurra. A scramble including Ambrose diving again, had the puck come out but Scamurra had a shot from the left circle with Desbiens still on the ground but she could not get the puck past the Montreal goaltender. A minute later, Brianne Jenner had a great chance that was stopped.

Ottawa’s domination of the third period continued when Jincy Roese broke in behind the defence, but could not beat Desbiens who came up with another big save.

In a reversal of the second period, Montreal’s first shot was midway through the third period was they survived the early Ottawa onslaught with the lead intact.

Ottawa had a power play to start the second half of the period when Poulin went off for tripping. Despite strong puck possession, Montreal’s defence held the fort and killed it off.

Ottawa’s dominance finally found the equalizer with 5:52 remaining, or so they thought. After an initial shot, a scramble ensued and the puck found its way out into the slot where Savannah Harmon pounced on the loose puck to get it into the net. There was a subsequent review for goaltender interference and it was ruled no goal, giving Montreal another reprieve.

“I was confident [it would get overturned] because I told [head coach Kori Cheverie] to do it,” Desbiens said. Desbiens said the only question she had was whether Becca Gilmore was pushed into her and when she saw she wasn’t, she figured they’d had a good case.

“We needed the break to reset, settle, take a deep breath and that helped us finish the game,” Desbiens said.

“We wanted it to be a goal, but we still had a lot of momentum after that play,” said Ottawa defender Savannah Harmon. “We were ready to go. I honestly, while I played it, I wasn’t really sure. I just played it. I saw the open net, I went for it.”

The setback didn’t stop Ottawa. With under five minutes remaining, former Montreal forward Tereza Vanišová had a chance in front, but her shot was saved by Desbiens and the loose puck sitting on the edge of the crease was calmly cleared by O’Neill.

Montreal sealed the game with a great play from veteran Mélodie Daoust. Daoust played most of the game on the third line, but stepped up late. She took the puck into the Ottawa zone, and held it against the boards to kill some clock. She did a lot more than that. As Ottawa tried to break out, Gabrielle David forced a turnover and Daoust picked up the puck, got it to Maureen Murphy in the slot, who fired a seeing-eye shot past Maschmeyer to give Montreal a 2-0 lead.

Ottawa would pressure in the final 1:48, but Desbiens held strong preserving the shutout despite Montreal being outshot 21-5 in the final 20 minutes.

Montreal now has a week until their next game. Their regular season will end in Boston. Toronto will play two games before then, so they will have an idea of whether they have something to play for even though Toronto’s regular season finale is a day later.


MTL 23 10 3 0 5 5 41 57 53 44 X 7 Y NA
TOR 21 10 2 2 0 7 38 54 45 47 X 10 4 NA
MIN 22 8 2 2 3 7 35 50 43 41 1 13 7
OTT 22 8 0 1 6 7 32 57 54 38 4 7
BOS 23 7 3 1 3 9 32 44 53 35 4 4
NY 21 3 3 1 3 11 20 42 56 29 E 0

Tie breakers: (1) Regulation wins (RW) (2) Regulation+OT wins (RW+OW) (3) All wins (RW+OW+SW) (4) Head to Head points

Magic number = Number of points needed to be won by the team, or lost by the 5th place team to clinch a playoff spot

Tragic number = Number of points needed to be lost by the team, or won by the 4th place team to be eliminated

#1 = Number of points needed to be won by the team, or lost by the 2nd place team to clinch first place

Home = Number of points needed to be won by the team, or lost by the 3rd place team to clinch a top-two spot

Gold = Number of Gold Points earned by the team. The #1 pick will be determined by the team with the most points in games after they are eliminated from the post-season

X = Clinched Playoff spot, Y = Clinched home-ice

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