PWHL Minnesota falls to Toronto for third consecutive loss

PWHL Minnesota got a change of scenery Tuesday, playing Toronto at 3M Arena at Mariucci — across town from its usual home ice at Xcel Energy Center. That couldn't lift the team out of its doldrums, as it fell 4-3 in overtime for its third consecutive loss.

Defender Sophie Jaques scored twice for Minnesota, including a blast from the center point with 21.1 seconds left to send the game to overtime. Sarah Nurse had given Toronto a 3-2 lead at 15 minutes of the third period, then scored the winner with 1:12 remaining in overtime. The victory was Toronto's sixth in a row.

After Blayre Turnbull gave Toronto a 1-0 lead at 5 minutes, 43 seconds of the first period, Jaques netted her first goal since being acquired via trade on Feb. 11. Her equalizer at 7:37 tied the score 1-1 heading into the first intermission.

The teams traded goals again in the second period, as Toronto regained the lead on Kali Flanagan's power-play strike before Minnesota defender Natalie Buchbinder knotted it at 2-2. Nurse snared a rebound near the right goal post to beat goalie Nicole Hensley, then Jaques tied it up with Hensley pulled.

Minnesota outshot Toronto 30-24.

BOXSCORE: Toronto 4, Minnesota 3 (OT)

The game was the team's first and only home contest played at a venue other than Xcel. That arena's main tenant, the Wild, had a home game Tuesday, forcing PWHL Minnesota to find an alternative.

Mariucci was a familiar environment for the eight former Gophers on the two teams' rosters. Seven Minnesota players spent their college hockey years next door at Ridder Arena. Olivia Knowles, part of Toronto's third defensive pair, also played for the Gophers.

Before the game, she said she expected it to be "a special night.''

"It's really exciting to be back on campus,'' she said. "It feels like a homecoming for me.''

Though Minnesota put 41 shots on net Sunday against Boston, it was shut out for the first time this season in a 2-0 loss. Coach Ken Klee praised his team for its ability to create scoring opportunities, but he hoped to see more net-front presence that could lead to goals off of deflections and second chances.

Minnesota had been held to two or fewer goals in each of its previous six games.

"We need to be determined to get into that space and take advantage,'' he said. "Our group works hard and competes every night. We need to finish the chances we're creating and get pucks in the net.''

Turnbull started the scoring 5:43 into a fast-paced first period. She skated to the slot, collected a pass from Emma Maltais, made a quick cut around defender Mellissa Channell and slipped the puck underneath Hensley.

Minnesota evened it up just under two minutes later. Kelly Pannek skated around the back of the Toronto net and fired a sharp-angle shot at Kristen Campbell, who turned it away. But the rebound slid straight to Jaques, who beat Campbell with a quick shot from low in the right circle.

Toronto scored on its first power play, taking advantage of a Minnesota penalty kill that ranks last in the PWHL. With Lee Stecklein in the box for hooking, Flanagan ripped a shot past Hensley from the center point at 2:04 of the second period. Buchbinder tied it with a long-range goal of her own, firing a shot over Campbell from the right point.