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PWHL: Lefort’s goal the difference as Montreal defeats Minnesota

Montreal defender Kati Tabin celebrates Claire Dalton's first period goal
Kati Tabin celebrates Claire Dalton's first period goal (Photo Credit: PWHL)

Sarah Lefort’s first goal of the season with 5:54 remaining in the second period lasted as the game-winning goal as Montreal defeated Minnesota 2-1 at Place Bell in Laval on Sunday.

A sold-out crowd of 10,172 took in the action. The crowd was a record for a professional women’s hockey game in the Montreal-area, and only 118 behind the arena’s record for the Laval Rocket.

Lefort’s goal started with her making a saucer pass to Madison Bizal. Bizal took a shot and Lefort was right on the doorstep to pick up the rebound and put it in the wide open net.

It was Lefort’s 44th professional goal scored with three different Montreal teams in three leagues: The CWHL’s Canadiennes, PHF’s Force, and now the PWHL. It would have been easy for Lefort to watch the pass, but the goal happened because she went to the net and put herself in the right position.

“Honestly, just finishing the route,” Lefort said about the goal. “We joke about it in football but once you make that pass, you still have to go to the net, you still have to finish the play so for me it was just having the presence at the net and [Bizal] did a great job to get it to me.”

It was also Bizal’s first PWHL point on the play.

Montreal also opened the scoring early in the first period with their first power play goal on home ice, and only second overall in the entire season. Kati Tabin fired a shot that was tipped in front by Claire Dalton. The rookie, who also scored the first goal in team history, was put on the second unit because Kennedy Marchment missed the game with an injury.

The power play was 0/13 at home entering the game and 1/32 overall. It was the team’s first power play goal since January 10 in New York.

“It is a little bit of a relief but I knew it was coming, it was just a matter of time,” said Montreal head coach Kori Cheverie. “The power play is simple. It’s about doing the most simple things correct over and over again. It’s not a special play, it’s about numbers at the net, it’s about getting shots through and it’s about outnumbering them. We had a plan that every shot we were going to take was going to come from the middle of the ice regardless of the situation. Tabin knew that, she got to the middle of the ice and Dalton knew slotting in she was going to be net front and she did her job pretty well so it’s nice and now you guys can have other questions too,” she joked.

Cheverie has been asked constantly about the power play over recent weeks after practices and games, win or lose. She has always addressed the media in French to start her post-game press conference and on Sunday she walked in and said simply, “Enfin l’avantage numérique”, which means “Finally the power play” and when one reporter joked that they weren’t going to ask about the power play she pretended to get up and leave, saying her job was done.

Minnesota tied the game with 2:18 left in the first period. Claire Butorac’s shot was stopped by Elaine Chuli but Kendall Coyne Schofield got to the rebound first and put a backhand past Chuli. Minnesota only got their first shot on goal 12:22 into the game, but was the better team for a period of 30 minutes after that goal.

They played yesterday in Ottawa and were missing two of their top centres. They only had 17 players dressed for this one due to injuries, going with 11 forwards and six defenders. For Montreal it wasn’t officially a back-to-back, but after playing Friday night in Toronto, they only travelled back by bus to Montreal on Saturday so it felt like a back-to-back for them as well, with Minnesota actually travelling the shorter distance despite having a game.

Chuli made her fourth start of the season, and first at home, and made 21 saves for the win. She is the only goaltender in the PWHL to have not lost a game. She leads the entire league in goals against average (1.24) and save percentage (.961) and her four wins are tied for third in the league. She actually has more wins than Ann-Renée Desbiens this season.

Montreal’s penalty kill was 4/4 on the night, and the defensive players stepped up, especially late. In the last 41 seconds of the game, Montreal was credited with five blocked shots: two by both Marie-Philip Poulin and Sarah Bujold, and one by Claire Dalton. Despite being a first-year professional out of college, Dalton was the one sent on the ice in the final minute protecting a one-goal lead. She also got a regular shift with Poulin and Catherine Dubois in the second half of the game.

“Claire she’s a reliable player, although young very smart and that’s why we wanted her from the beginning,” said Cheverie. “She adapts to wherever we put her and that’s a player that is extremely valuable, she doesn’t get nervous about playing on the top line, can slot in on the power play, she killed a little bit today too. For one of our younger players being able to play in that many moments it’s important that we have those types of players.”

“It definitely makes me more confident, anytime you can get on the ice especially with some of those players on our team,” Dalton said. “There are tons of players that could have been out there doing the same thing.”

Minnesota’s best chance with the goalie pulled in the final two minutes came when Lee Stecklein’s shot hit the post to the side of Chuli. There was some confusion in the dying seconds as with about three seconds to go, Grace Zumwinkle stopped playing thinking the game was over, and even the clock stopped for a second thinking there was a whistle, but there was none, and time eventually expired.

A team spokesperson for Minnesota said that some players thought they heard the horn signalling the end of the game, but it was just noise from the crowd.

With the regulation win, Montreal moves to within one point of Minnesota with one game in hand. Montreal has the highest points percentage in the league. They have two games next week. In New York on Wednesday and at home against Ottawa on Saturday afternoon.


  • Prior to the game, the team officially signed Catherine Dubois to a standard player contract. Dubois started the season on the reserve roster, and was signed to two 10-day contracts due to injuries, the maximum one player can sign per the PWHL Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  • To make room for Dubois, Dominika Lásková was placed on long-term injury reserve. LTIR requires a player to be out at least 21 days, and Lásková has already missed the last three games. Her last game was on January 27. Cheverie said she didn’t know whether Lásková was expected to be back this season.
  • Kennedy Marchment missed the game for what the team is calling precautionary reasons. “With playing so quickly, if there’s a risk with any of our players, it’s just not worth it. We still have a ton of games left in this season even though it feels like we’ve been playing for a full season already. We need to be really smart with the management of our players and taking the recommendations that are around us.”

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