PWHL Minnesota gets offensive spark to top Toronto 2-0, climb back into playoff series

PWHL Minnesota needed a victory Monday to extend its season. To get it, and dig out of an 0-2 playoff deficit against Toronto, it needed another elusive commodity: goals.

After being shut out in the first two games of the league semifinals, Minnesota finally found the back of the net — and with it, a 2-0 victory at Xcel Energy Center. Maggie Flaherty and Denisa Krizova scored in the second period, ending Minnesota's goal drought at 142 minutes, 12 seconds. Goaltender Maddie Rooney stopped 18 shots as Minnesota won for the first time in eight games.

Toronto leads the best-of-five series 2-1, with Game 4 on Wednesday at Xcel. If a Game 5 is necessary, it will be Friday in Toronto.

Toronto star Natalie Spooner, the PWHL's leading scorer in the regular season, was injured on a hit from Minnesota forward Grace Zumwinkle midway through the third period. Spooner was helped up the tunnel and did not return to the game.

Goaltender Kristen Campbell looked invincible in the first two games of the series, but Minnesota got past her twice in the first nine minutes of Monday's second period. Flaherty scored from the right point at 2:12, and Krizova poked in a loose puck at 8:39. Minnesota outshot Toronto 26-18.

The victory was Minnesota's first since March 24. It ended the team's five-game losing streak against Toronto, which had outscored Minnesota 19-6 in six games this season.

Minnesota limped home for its playoff debut at Xcel after failing to score in its first two games. Toronto won 4-0 last Wednesday, then followed up with a 2-0 shutout Friday.

Campbell stopped 47 shots in the two games, and she had not allowed a goal in 153:34 going into Game 3. The former Wisconsin goaltender kept it going in Wednesday's first period. Minnesota got a pair of power plays and outshot Toronto 11-2, but the team headed to intermission with nothing to show for it.

Those power plays did yield a wealth of good scoring chances and nine shots on goal, and a lively crowd announced at 3,344 gave Minnesota some positive energy. Flaherty made things livelier when she took advantage of a crowd in front of the net to score Minnesota's first goal.

When Flaherty got the puck at the right point, Campbell didn't have a clear look, as several players jostled in the slot. Flaherty sent the puck just inside the left goal post to end Campbell's shutout streak at 175:46, a span that included 59 saves.

Minnesota's second goal came after Campbell stopped Liz Schepers' long-range shot. The puck dropped at her feet, and Krizova raced to the net to poke it in.