A raucous crowd of Buffalo Beauts fans booed the ending of last night's historic first game of the NWHL finals. In overtime, a covered puck that may or may not have been in the crease -- the jury is still out -- led to a penalty shot, that, when given to Hilary Knight, was basically a given goal.
No disrespect to Buffalo's netminder Brianne McLaughlin, who stopped seven in OT alone and made many other spectacular saves in a grueling game in which fans watched the ice tilt back and forth several times. The 1st period was scoreless, then Boston notched two in the 2nd: the stellar Blake Bolden lifted Brianna Decker's rebound up high, then Gigi Marvin's shot from the point deflected off Kelley Steadman's stick.
But Buffalo answered back. Shelby Bram scored first at the end of the 2nd, followed in the 3rd by an absolute beauty of a shot from captain Emily Pfalzer from the top of the slot, tying it up 2-2. (Boston got a little surly about the celebration.)
That's when penalties came into play. While the Beauts failed to capitalize on a 5 on 3 in spite of numerous pucks loaded smoothly for cannon Megan Bozek, they made the one man advantage count. Kelley Steadman, who was clearly due, wristed one past Brittany Ott and gave her team the lead.
Then Hilary Knight took over. She tied the game on the power play, with a backhand that looked as if she almost couldn't be bothered. But it was her second goal that will go down in the NWHL's still-brief history: she took the penalty shot after Hailey Browne covered the puck in the crease. It was a tough loss for a scrappy comeback team like Buffalo.
What are the chances that we can see a Game 3? Pretty good. The Beauts are determined. Plus, if the last game of the semifinals, in which the Riveters baffled Boston into giving up four goals, is any indication, the Pride don't respond well to wrenches thrown in their works. Penalties on either side could end up making the difference. As the underdogs, Buffalo has nothing to lose, and a Cup to gain.