PWHL Minnesota seeks breakthrough as playoff series comes to Xcel on Monday

PWHL Minnesota has enjoyed playing in front of its home fans all season. But the team might only have one more chance if it can't figure out a way to score.

Minnesota was shut out for the second consecutive playoff game Friday night, losing 2-0 at Toronto, which broke a scoreless tie on Jesse Compher's goal with 85 seconds remaining in the third period. Minnesota needs to win Monday night at Xcel Energy Center to extend to the best-of-five series to a fourth game, which would be Wednesday at the X.

"Now we get to go home," Minnesota coach Ken Klee said in his postgame news conference Friday. "We'll have our home fans, we'll have our energy, we've been great at home all year. So let's continue that."

It has been a rough stretch for PWHL Minnesota, which went from the top team in the league for much of the season to a seven-game losing streak — five in the regular season, two in the playoffs — after returning from a three-week break for the women's hockey world championships. But Klee was at least encouraged by how his players played in Game 2 after a 4-0 loss to Toronto in Game 1 on Wednesday.

"It's tough. Obviously we wanted to get the split," Klee said. "We played well enough tonight to get the split, it just didn't happen. We get down to a minute and 20 left in the game, and we had as many chances as they did. It was a great hockey game, it just didn't fall our way."

Added goalie Maddie Rooney: "Playing in front of our fans, home ice, that'll give us some momentum. But even though this was a loss, I think we looked like a different team today. Despite the loss, this gave us momentum. We can play with these guys, we can beat these guys. Like Ken said, it just didn't go our way, and we'll capitalize on our chances next game."

Minnesota has alternated Nicole Hensley and Rooney in net all season, and after Hensley gave up four goals on 20 shots in Game 1, Klee turned to Rooney in Game 2. The Olympic gold medalist and former Minnesota Duluth standout made 28 saves, but Compher broke through by tipping in a shot from the point. Toronto added an empty-netter from Hannah Miller with 10 seconds to play.

"I honestly didn't see much," Compher said. "Just tried to go to the net as hard as possible. I think we've talked about all year getting in front of the goalies, taking their eyes away creates chaos, and hopefully good things come from that."

Toronto's Kristen Campbell made 21 saves after making 26 in the series opener. Minnesota has managed only seven goals total in its losing streak, and three of those goals came in the first game of the skid. Minnesota has come up empty on its past 19 power plays, including 0-for-4 Friday.

"A lot of our offense is going to come off of good defensive play, so I think we need to prioritize playing defense first," Minnesota defenseman Sophie Jaques said. "We did a better job today of actually getting quality chances and being purposeful with our shots on net."