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Spooner helps Toronto crush Ottawa’s PWHL playoff hopes in regular-season finale | CBC Sports

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Sarah Nurse said Toronto wanted to send a message Sunday night, and the team sent it loud and clear.

Natalie Spooner scored twice as Toronto extended its winning streak to four games with a 5-2 victory over Ottawa in the Professional Women’s Hockey League regular-season finale.

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 post-season.

“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,” 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.”

WATCH l Spooner scores twice in Toronto’s win over Ottawa: 

O️ttawa’s PWHL playoff hopes crushed with loss to Toronto

Natalie Spooner scored twice in Toronto’s 5-2 win over Ottawa who needed a regulation win to secure a PWHL playoff berth.

Toronto had already secured first place and has a choice of semifinal opponent between third-place Boston (8-4-3-9) and fourth-place Minnesota (8-4-3-9).

Toronto had 24 hours after Sunday’s win to make the choice. The league said the team would make that announcement at 7:30 ET on Monday.

Toronto opens its first-round series on Wednesday at Coca-Cola Coliseum. Meanwhile, Montreal (10-3-5-6) finished second and starts playoffs on Thursday at Place Bell in Laval, Que.

Spooner scored the go-ahead goal for Toronto with 5:43 left in the third period that was followed by two empty-netters to seal the win

League leader in points and goals

Spooner finished the regular season atop the PWHL leaderboard in points (27) and goals (20) to be the league’s first scoring champion.

“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 (13-4-0-7) and Victoria Bach and Samantha Cogan added the empty-net goals. 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 (8-1-6-9). Emerance Maschmeyer stopped 27 shots.

Ottawa was the only team to win its season series against Toronto, going 3-0-0-2 this season. A regulation win would’ve also secured third place ahead of Boston, and bump Minnesota out of the playoff picture.

“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.”

Spooner opened the scoring just 1:05 into the contest. She buried the puck home on a feed in front from Hannah Miller.

Hughes knotted the contest at 9:38 of the first period. Hayley Scamurra dished a centring 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 to the net to roof the puck on Maschmeyer.

Watts evened the score on a sweet play in which she capitalized on Toronto’s defensive mishap at 6:27 of the second period.

Brianne Jenner made a drop-off pass that caused Cogan and Jocelyne Larocque to collide trying to switch sides, leaving Watts to cut across the face of Campbell and just beat the goaltender’s outstretched leg.

Spooner put Toronto ahead with 5:43 remaining in the third period to the delight of the Mattamy Athletic Centre crowd waving their rally towels.

After Spooner was tripped by Snodgrass, Spooner made Ottawa pay by sweeping in a rebound off a Nurse shot for a power-play goal.

Bach scored into an empty net with 3:09 left to play. Cogan added hers with 2:24 remaining.

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