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Spooner's shootout winner lifts PWHL Toronto to fifth straight win, 2-1 over New York

Toronto's Natalie Spooner (24) battles for the puck against New York's Jade Downie-Landry (27) during second period PWHL action in Toronto on Friday, Feb. 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Lahodynskyj

TORONTO — Natalie Spooner vied for a second opportunity in the shootout after scoring on her first go, and it paid dividends.

Spooner scored the winner to lead Toronto to its fifth straight victory, defeating New York 2-1 on Friday in Professional Women's Hockey League action. With the PWHL's shootout format allowing five shots a side, Spooner was the only one to score from either team, sealing it with her second.

Players are also "eligible at any time to take any number of shots and as often as the team chooses," according to the rule book.

"Once I got that first one in the shootout, … I think I was eyeing up (head coach) Troy (Ryan) like 'I could go again,'" Spooner said with a laugh.

Ryan said Spooner didn't directly ask him.

"Spooner actually asked one of the players, I think she asked Blayre Turnbull," he said. "She was like, 'I think I want to go again, I'm hot, I'm ready to go again.' And then Blayre told her to ask me, so she didn't quite ask me.

"Non-verbally, she had the biggest smile ever and just kind of looked at me and I just kind of winked and was like, 'yeah, you're going.'"

Emma Maltais scored in regulation for Toronto (7-5-0), which has also won six of its last seven. 

Kristen Campbell, who heard chants of her nickname "Soupy" numerous times throughout the game, made 27 saves in regulation and overtime, and all four shots in the shootout.

Spooner said she asked Campbell to take shootout reps after practice Thursday and did so, to the benefit of both.

"It's a fun time," Campbell said of shootouts. "I practice shootouts so much, even the last few years when we didn't have games, I would just do shootouts with Rebecca Johnston, (Marie-Philip) Poulin, all these girls after (Canadian national team) practice.

"So once you've done that, and you're taking 30, 40 breakaways after practice, it's not too difficult to stop four or five in a shootout. So, kind of rely on that preparation and just know that I've put in all the work for those moments."

Toronto went up 3-1-0 in the season series, having won three straight now against New York since a 4-0 home loss on Jan. 1 in the PWHL's first-ever game, with plenty of physicality on display in every meeting.

"I think that first game, that stung a little bit, it was a great moment but it stung," Maltais said. "I think that sticks with us every time we play them. 

"It's a message we want to send every time that we don't want that to happen again."

Ella Shelton scored for New York (6-4-2), which had its three-game winning streak snapped. Corinne Schroeder stopped 28 shots.

New York failed to score on any of its five power plays, including one in overtime.

"They're just a very disciplined team that does a really good job of getting in your lane," New York head coach Howie Draper said of Toronto's top-ranked penalty kill. "I thought we created a few good opportunities, just have to bear down a little bit and take advantage of those."

Maltais broke the deadlock 12:34 into the third period. Turnbull sent a saucer pass on a 2-on-1 and Maltais tipped it past Schroeder after the puck first hit her shins.

Toronto forward Sarah Nurse crashed head first into the post after streaking down the ice on a scoring chance and knocked the net out of place with 2:18 left. She was down momentarily but got up under her own power and continued play.

Ryan said Nurse was OK post-game.

Shelton tied the game with just 8.6 seconds remaining, scoring in front on a feed from Emma Woods to push the game to overtime.

With 1:42 left in overtime, Nurse took a hooking penalty in 3-on-3 play that was whistled seconds later as she almost went down the ice on a breakaway to a chorus of boos. 

Campbell stonewalled Abby Roque in front with a pad save as 41 seconds remained in the frame and New York on the 4-on-3 power play to push the game to a shootout.


Toronto heads south of the border to face Minnesota on Tuesday.

New York continues its road trip with a visit to Ottawa on Wednesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024.

Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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