The Vegas Golden Knights’ last meeting with the Montreal Canadiens was a heartbreaker, to say the least. After blowing an early 2-0 lead, the Golden Knights managed to claim another lead later in the game thanks to a tally from William Karlsson early in the third period. Once again, though, Vegas lost grip of its lead and allowed a pair of unanswered goals to lose 5-4 in regulation.
Unfortunately for the Knights, Saturday’s rematch with Montreal wasn’t all that different from the two teams’ first meeting. Vegas held a late lead and, once again, couldn’t hang on.
Canadiens forward Phillip Danault scored a natural hat trick Saturday. Prior to the game, Danault had just two goals in 36 contests. His third goal of the game, scored with just 1:25 remaining in regulation as goaltender Carey Price was pulled for the extra attacker, wound up forcing overtime, where it was Paul Byron who completed the comeback for the Habs.
Danault put together what was arguably his best performance as a Canadien Saturday afternoon as he singlehandedly forced overtime with first-ever hat trick. Funny enough, Danault’s 48.84 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 was one of worst marks on Montreal’s roster. When he had the opportunity to get the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury, though, he took full advantage.
“I thought it was awesome, I think everyone’s real happy for him,” said Canadiens forward Brendan Gallagher. “You look at the way he plays, he is consistent and very reliable everywhere on the ice. Not all that stuff that he does is the intent that he has, or that he is going to score for the scoresheet. Tonight they did. For the most part, game after game, he has done the same thing he has done every single night, tonight he got rewarded with goals and three big goals which obviously we are real happy for.”
In Vegas’ first meeting with Montreal, Tomas Tatar, who played in 20 regular-season games (and eight postseason games) for the Knights last season, scored the game-winner to lift his team over Vegas for the 5-4 victory. Saturday, Tatar made just as big an impact against his former team, though he did not hit the back of the net this time around.
Without a doubt, Tatar’s first game back in T-Mobile Arena since last season certainly ended up being a motivating factor for his solid performance.
“Obviously it was a motivation today to win the game and I’m really happy we got another two points there,” said Tatar after the game. “It’s always a little extra. I was really happy to be back, it kind of brings the memories back. Good game for sure.”
Good game is putting it politely. Without Tatar, Danault likely would not have earned the first hat trick of his career. Tatar assisted on two of Danault’s three tallies while also logging four shots on goal.
Controversial call goes in Habs’ favor
One of the goals Tatar did not have a hand on was Danault’s second-period tally, which, in most cases, probably shouldn’t have even counted. After reviewing the play, it looks clear that Danault had deflected the puck with a high stick. Following the official review, however, the officials did not have enough evidence suggesting that the Danault’s stick was above the crossbar, and the tally stood.
The Habs’ second goal of the game may have counted on the scoresheet, but Knights players, of course, were still largely in disagreement after the game about the call on the ice.
“It looked like it was above his shoulder, he’s a lot taller than the net,” said Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. “The referee said they couldn’t overturn it from the replay, and they saw the goal on the ice. It’s just mind-boggling a bit. It’s 2018 and we can’t figure out if the puck is high or not for a high tip. Sometimes you see William Karlsson making a pass up high and then by the version of it on TV you know how high it is, but then when there’s a goal against then they can’t.”
Pirri impresses again
Knights forward Brandon Pirri made an impact on the scoresheet for the second game in a row since being called up from the AHL on Wednesday. This time, though, he scored a pair of goals, including a greasy goal on Carey Price’s doorstep late in the opening period.
Not only was did Pirri perform well on the scoresheet, but his play-driving statistics were also quite eye-catching. His 48.65 Corsi For percentage at 5-on-5 led all Golden Knights players, as did his 52.00 Fenwick For percentage.
It’s a small sample size, but Pirri has been a highly effective player for the Golden Knights since being called up. All things taken into account, though, Saturday would have been much sweeter for the 27-year-old had the Knights gotten the win.
“You know, I’d probably trade two goals for two points,” he said.
Fleury strong despite loss
Marc-Andre Fleury will never be happy with his performance after allowing four goals in loss. However, the 34-year-old managed to put together a pretty solid performance Saturday afternoon, stopping 43 of Montreal’s 47 shots on net. And a couple of those saves will likely go down as some of his best of the season.
Making Fleury’s performance even more impressive is the sheer volume of high-danger chances the Canadiens had to work with. Three of their four goals came from the dirty areas, and that ended up making a big difference.
“I think our consistency throughout the game was good even though they scored that first goal. We kept coming and playing hard. They’re a quick team and we hung around with them well,” said Fleury. “I guess it’s just when we’re home and ahead in the game, just got to close those ones out.”