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Nurse scores twice, Toronto beats Montreal 3-2 in OT before record crowd in PWHL

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MONTREAL — Sarah Nurse scored twice, including the overtime winner, and Kristen Campbell made 37 saves as Toronto defeated Montreal 3-2 before a record crowd in the Professional Women’s Hockey League on Saturday afternoon at the Bell Centre.

The 21,105 attendance set a high-water mark for a women’s hockey game, exceeding the 19,285 set when the same two teams met at Scotiabank Arena on Feb. 16.

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The previous record of 18,013 at the 2013 world championship in Ottawa stood for a decade before the PWHL started this year.

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Fans of all ages — some hoisting signs that read “Girls Hockey Rules” and “2033 PWHL Draft Eligible” — waved white towels, wore flashing bracelets and roared from the top of their lungs throughout the afternoon at the home of the NHL’s Canadiens.

Montreal captain Marie-Philip Poulin, one of hockey’s all-time greats, received a deafening standings ovation followed by chants of “Pou! Pou! Pou!” when introduced in the starting lineup.

Toronto not only played spoiler, but also clinched a playoff berth with the victory.

Blayre Turnbull also scored for the league-leading visitors (10-4-0-7), who beat Montreal for a fifth time this season. Emma Maltais had two assists.

Erin Ambrose and Sarah Bujold replied for Montreal (8-3-5-5). Ann-Renee Desbiens, who received a raucous ovation of her own, made 30 saves.

Nurse received a pass from Renata Fast before firing a shot over Desbiens’ shoulder 13 seconds into the 3-on-3 overtime period.

Montreal had a chance to win late in regulation, jumping on the power play with 2:55 remaining in the third after Jocelyne Larocque tripped up Poulin, but couldn’t convert to break the 2-2 tie.

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Montreal moved into a second-place tie with Minnesota, which played Ottawa on Saturday night.

Montreal’s power play was 1-for-6 against Toronto’s league-best penalty kill in a chippy game between the rival cities. Toronto was 0-for-4.

Poulin, a 33-year-old from Beauceville, Que., told the fans “we want to hear you, we want that energy” from the ice before the game

And they delivered.

Montreal fed off the crowd with several scoring chances early in the game, but Toronto struck first.

Turnbull opened the scoring 9:43 into the first period when her shot trickled through Desbiens.

Montreal had a chance to even the score with a five-on-three minutes later, but couldn’t beat a red-hot Campbell.

The home team kept coming. Laura Stacey and Mikyla Grant-Mentis hit a combined three posts.

Bujold finally got Montreal on the board with 19 seconds left in the period after pulling a smooth toe-drag around a defender before beating Campbell blocker side as the crowd erupted.

Montreal dominated the shots 17-8 in the opening period.

Toronto re-took the lead early in the second.

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Nurse deflected Allie Munroe’s point shot past a screened Desbiens 40 seconds into the period. The goal was reviewed high-sticking but ultimately stood.

Ambrose tied the game with another late goal, scoring with 25 seconds left in the period on Montreal’s fourth power play of the game.

Poulin earned an assist on the goal, giving the fans another chance to cheer for their local hero.


Montreal signed Grant-Mentis to a standard contract before the game. The 25-year-old forward joined Montreal as a reserve player and later signed a 10-day contract after she was released by Ottawa on Feb. 18. She has played four games for Montreal.


Montreal: Hosts New York on Wednesday.

Toronto: Visits New York on April 28.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 20, 2024.

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