Natalie Spooner leads Toronto to 5-2 win over Ottawa in regular-season finale

TORONTO (AP) — Natalie Spooner scored twice in Toronto’s 5-2 win over Ottawa in the league’s regular-season finale on Sunday night.

Ottawa’s playoff hopes in the PWHL’s inaugural season were crushed by the loss as the club needed a regulation win to reach the postseason.

“Going into this game, understanding that we had a playoff spot and knowing from here on out we have to end a team’s season every time we play them,” Toronto forward Sarah Nurse said. “And so, today was the first opportunity.

“Going into this game, we knew that if we won, Ottawa was done and that’s what we wanted to do and ultimately send a message to the league too that we’re not taking our foot off the gas.”

Toronto had already secured first place and has a choice of semifinal opponent between third-place Boston and fourth-place Minnesota.

Toronto opens its first-round series Wednesday at Coca-Cola Coliseum. Montreal finished second and starts playoffs Thursday at Place Bell in Laval, Quebec.

Spooner scored a go-ahead goal for Toronto with 5:43 left in the third period.

She finished the regular season atop the PWHL leaderboard in points (27) and goals (20).

“It’s pretty special,” Spooner said. “I guess it’s not really something I thought about before but to be able to do that, I think it’s such a historic year for women’s hockey — it’s pretty special.”

Nurse also scored for Toronto and Victoria Bach and Samantha Cogan added empty-net goals. Goalie Kristen Campbell made 41 saves in the win.

“As always, I liked parts of it,” Toronto head coach Troy Ryan said of his team’s showing. “I thought there was a spell there in the second period that we just got away from doing what makes us successful.

“Loved the start of the game and loved the way we finished it out. Great effort, great mentality for the situation we were in for tonight’s game.”

Gabbie Hughes and Daryl Watts scored for Ottawa. Emerance Maschmeyer stopped 27 shots.

“There’s a lot of emotion,” Ottawa head coach Carla MacLeod said. “We wanted to get this game. You could see by how we played, we were pretty determined to try to win this one and punch our own ticket into the playoffs.

“It hurts in the room, it hurts in the coaches’ room, it hurts in the players’ room. But it’s a simple message at the end. We couldn’t be more proud of our group.”

Ottawa was the only team to win its season series against Toronto, going 3-0-0-2 this season.

Spooner opened the scoring just 1:05 into the contest.

Maschmeyer made a diving save on Hannah Miller who picked up the rebound behind the net and sent a pass in front to Spooner who buried it home.

Hughes knotted the contest at 9:38 of the first period. Hayley Scamurra dished a centering pass to a streaking Hughes who made good on the play tapping it past Campbell.

Nurse restored Toronto’s edge at 10:48 of the frame. With Natalie Snodgrass trailing her every move, Nurse skated up the boards, spun around and drove the net to roof the puck on Maschmeyer.

Watts evened the score on a sweet play in which she capitalized on a defensive mishap from the hosts at 6:26 of the second period.

Brianne Jenner made a drop-off pass to Watts causing Cogan and Jocelyne Larocque to collide trying to switch sides.

Watts took the pass and cut across the face of Campbell whose outstretched leg couldn’t reach far enough to stop the backhand shot.


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