See more of the story

In the afterglow of a 4-1 victory Friday, Taylor Heise reflected on what came before. She and linemate Michela Cava both endured injuries in PWHL Minnesota's first season, and the team ended the regular season on a five-game losing streak that nearly kept it out of the playoffs.

"We've been in the gutter," Heise said. "We've been feeling bad. But I think, at the end of the day, great players step up in great moments. And this is definitely one of those."

Friday's great moment came in Game 3 of the Walter Cup finals, as Minnesota defeated Boston at Xcel Energy Center. That put it on the brink of an even greater one. With a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series, the team can raise the first-ever PWHL championship trophy with a victory in Sunday's Game 4 at Xcel.

The line of Heise, Cava and Kendall Coyne Schofield again took a leading role, as it has throughout the playoffs. Cava set up Heise for a goal only 59 seconds into the game. After Boston cut Minnesota's lead to 2-1 late in the second period, Cava reeled in a Heise pass and ditched two Boston defenders to score at 3:29 of the third.

Sydney Brodt potted the winner on a rebound at 17:38 of the first period, while goaltender Nicole Hensley held the line at the other end of the ice, stopping 18 of 19 Boston shots. It all added up to Minnesota's fifth victory in its past six playoff games, and the chance to be the first team to etch its name on the Walter Cup.

"We're just thrilled to be in the position we're in," Heise said. "And hopefully not to have to go back to Boston (for a Game 5). That's what our goal is."

On a night when basketball reigned across the river, a crowd announced at 9,054 filled the lower bowl at Xcel to soak up the Twin Cities' other playoff run. They gave as good as they got, whirling white towels and raising a ruckus that helped Minnesota to a 3-0 playoff record at home. The win was its seventh in its past eight games at Xcel.

As expected, the first two games of the finals were a contest between Minnesota's speed and Boston's muscle. They largely canceled each other out as the teams split in Boston.

Friday, Minnesota fed off the energy of the amped-up crowd. Swift and sharp right from the start, the team took the lead on Heise's snipe from the slot. Her line has combined for eight goals and eight assists in the playoffs, and she is the league's top scorer in the postseason with five goals and seven points.

Brodt stuffed the puck past Boston goalie Aerin Frankel for a 2-0 lead, which held up until 1.4 seconds remained in the second period. Alina Müller beat Hensley at the back door to finish off a great passing sequence, scoring Boston's first goal since the second period of Game 1.

"We felt like we had played a good 40 minutes, so there was really no stress in the locker room," Cava said. "We talked it out and just knew we had to come out stronger in the third period."

Minnesota did, as Heise said Cava "put two defenders in a blender" on her goal. Grace Zumwinkle added an empty-netter on a Boston power play at 16:10.

Like Minnesota, Boston also knows what it's like to scrap its way back. It rallied late in the season to reach the playoffs, and coach Courtney Kessel said her team remains in rally mode.

"I feel like our backs have been up against the wall for quite some time," she said. "We know what it's like to fight back. And we're going to continue to fight."