PWHL Minnesota falls to Montreal, suffers first regulation defeat

The last and first time Montreal and Minnesota met in PWHL action, a record women's professional hockey crowd of 13,316 jammed Xcel Energy Center to see the home team win in a shutout.

Nearly three weeks later, they met again, this time when a midweek audience of 5,001 watched Montreal's late goal win it 2-1 on Wednesday night.

It was first-place Minnesota's first loss in regulation. Montreal's only loss in regulation came in that Xcel Energy Center home opener.

"I thought we played a lot better than the first time, to be honest with you," Minnesota coach Ken Klee said afterward.

This time, Minnesota outshot Montreal 46-26, but goaltender Elaine Chuli won the game's first star for her night's work.

Minnesota had five power plays, none of which it could convert. It managed only former UMD center and Thunder Bay's own Michela Cava's first goal of the season midway through the second period at 11:51. Meanwhile, Minnesota surrendered Laura Stacey's goal six minutes into the game and Tereza Vanisova's with six minutes left.

BOXSCORE: PWHL Montreal 2, PWHL Minnesota 1

"We had plenty of chances," Klee said. "It's not about that. We didn't lose because of that last goal. We have to find a way to finish.

"We put up, what, 42, 45 shots? I don't know what we had, but normally when we do that, we're scoring three goals."

Vanisova's first goal this season won the game at 13:54 of the third period after Minnesota goaltender Nicole Hensley mishandled a puck dumped down the length of the ice, emerging from the net to play it but backing off early. The goal came just a minute after Montreal killed off Ann-Sophie Bettez's tripping penalty.

"It's a tight hockey game, right?" Klee said. "It's too bad for us that it ended on a long dump that we just mishandled. I know Nicole would like to either go get that puck and stay in her night. One or the other. But it's just one of those unfortunate things."

Hensley, who started for fourth time in seven games, said she thought Montreal's Catherine Daoust's long dump down the ice might turn into a breakaway pass. Instead, it bounded off the back boards, Maureen Murphy knocked it toward the net and Vanisova, cruising through the slot, put the rebound into an open goal.

"I thought that pass would be a breakaway, so I stepped away from that," Hensley said. "I wasn't assertive enough."

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Montreal committed its fifth penalty of the night after Vanisova made it 2-1, but Minnesota couldn't make the visitors pay for a body-checking penalty by Erin Ambrose.

"If we capitalize on those power plays, any of them, it's a different ballgame out there," Minnesota captain Kendall Coyne Schofield. "It's seeing sticks. It's knowing the plays we have. It's just connection with each other. It's being sharper.

"We've got to figure it out. That's how you win and lose hockey games. This is an example of losing one because of it."

Klee praised much of what his team did, without winning.

"It's right there," Klee said. "It's not like we're not getting good looks. I look every game: Are we generating chances? Are we doing the things we're supposed to do? For the most part we are.

"We've got to find a way to the back of the net. … I liked a lot of things we did. You put up 40-something shots, I can't complain with our effort or our go. I just need some people to relax a little bit and [score]."