Nurse delivers in OT, PWHL Toronto wins sixth in a row

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It was a hungry and frustrated PWHL Minnesota team that greeted red-hot Toronto last night in Minneapolis, and they did not make things easy for the visitors.

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Despite never having a lead through the first 55 minutes of the game, Minnesota managed to force overtime, getting one past Toronto goalkeeper Kristen Campbell with the Minnesota net empty in the final 25 seconds.

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But Sarah Nurse, who already had provided Toronto with a lead with her first goal of the game with five minutes remaining in regulation off a net scramble, made sure Toronto came home with two of a possible three points in this one, claiming a 4-3 overtime victory.

Toronto had a little bit of help from lady luck in overtime.

With the game well into the 3-on-3 overtime period, Nurse set up wide of the Minnesota net at about the hash marks. Jocelyne Larocque, who already had one assist on the night, won a battle along the boards and fed Nurse for the one-timer.

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Nurse didn’t get all of it, but enough that when it was redirected just in front of netminder Nicole Hensley with a defender’s stick, it found the back of the net for the game-winner.

It was Nurse’s second of the game and fourth goal of the season.

It was the second consecutive game in which Toronto lost a lead in the final minute of regulation time. On Friday at home against New York, the visitors scored the game-tying goal with 8.6 seconds left before Natalie Spooner won it in the shootout with a pair of goals.

With the two points, Toronto remains in third in the standings but are now just one point behind Minnesota in second which earned a point for getting the game into overtime.

Minnesota came out of the gate stronger than any team in the league when the season opened. So, two losses in a row in and three in their last five has not sat well with the team that owned first-place in the league for the entire first month.

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Losing first overall pick Taylor Heise to injury for the past four games has not helped matters.

Minnesota actually outshot Toronto in the game 30-24 in the game but Campbell stood tall in the Toronto net for her seventh win in a row and the team’s sixth consecutive victory.

It was a heady play by Campbell that set up Toronto’s first goal as she left her net to beat a Minnesota forward to a stretch pass at the hash marks and fed it forward to Renata Fast.

Fast forwarded it to Blayre Turnbull, who hit Emma Maltais and then took the return pass just inside the blue line.

Turnbull made one move to shake the final remaining defender and slid one under Hensley for the game’s first goal.

It was Turnbull’s second goal of the season and the seventh point in the past five games for Maltais, who has been on a tear.

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Kali Flanagan also scored for Toronto, picking up her second of the season on the power play to put Toronto back in front two minutes into the second period.

With Lee Stecklein in the penalty box, Flanagan and Larocque exchanged passes at the top of the zone before Flanagan ripped a one-timer through some traffic and past Heisley, who did not appear to get a good look at the shot off the stick.

Sophie Jaques scored two of Minnesota’s three goals, including that one with 21.1 seconds remaining that forced overtime.

Jaques, a Toronto native who started the year was PWHL Boston, was involved in the league’s first trade, coming over from Boston in a trade for Finnish forward Susanna Tapani and defender Abby Cook.

She didn’t register a point in Boston but had picked up an assist since coming over to Minnesota and last night added those two goals.

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The game was played at 3M Arena at Mariucci in downtown Minneapolis, home of the Golden Gophers. Normally PWHL Minnesota’s home games take place at Xcel Energy Centre, home of the Minnesota Wild, but the Wild had a home game last night, forcing the move.

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Year One is about halfway in the books and the preparations for Year Two in the PWHL are well underway.

The league announced yesterday the details of the declaration process for the second PWHL draft which will occur sometime in June.

All prospects hoping to be selected in the draft must inform the league of that intent beginning March 1 through May 8.

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The league has also announced they will make a window available following the completion of the current season for teams to engage in trades with draft picks.

As it stands now, trades can only be player for players, and that limits the ability of general managers to engage in trades to much of a degree.

Including draft picks in the process will open things up considerably.

This year’s draft will consist of seven rounds with 42 players drafted. In the inaugural draft 268 players were declared eligible for the draft though a repeat of a total that high is obviously unexpected. That draft was 15 rounds long and 90 players were selected.

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