The Vegas Golden Knights opened their Stanley Cup Semifinal round against an opponent outside of the West Division (and the Western Conference) for the first time in 2021 as they hosted the Montreal Canadians Monday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Canadiens entered tonight’s game on a seven-game winning streak, but it was Vegas that came away victorious with a 4-1 win thanks to another solid performance by Marc-Andre Fleury, goals from three defensemen and a strong team-wide effort.
The Knights now lead the best-of-seven series 1-0.
The Golden Knights did not get out to their best start but were able to turn the tide quite quickly and gain control of the game. Vegas was the better team tonight in all facets of the game, Fleury was excellent when called upon and the Golden Knights dominated play in the neutral zone.
Shea Theodore and Alex Pietrangelo were stellar, and the Golden Knights are very hard to beat when one or both is producing. Theodore scored finished the game with two points for the second straight game.
Early in the first period, Jonathan Marchessault was whistled for high-sticking, but the Golden Knights were able to kill the penalty without allowing a shot.
The Canadiens held a strong grasp on the pace of the game and were the significantly better team early on, but Fleury weathered the storm long enough for the Knights to turn things around.
A key offensive zone faceoff win by Chandler Stephenson midway through the period turned the tide. The puck found its way to Theodore, and he rocketed one past a screened Carey Price for his first goal of the playoffs.
The game began to break down, as both sides’ antagonists began to put their stamp on the game.
Late in the period, the Golden Knights went to a power play after an extremely good sequence by Alex Tuch, who stole the puck and drew the hooking penalty.
The period came to and end with some carry-over time on the power play, and the Golden Knights went to the locker room up by a goal. If not for Fleury, things could have gone very differently.
Only seconds into the second period, Ben Chiarot sailed the puck over the far boards to send the Golden Knights to an abbreviated 5-on-3, which didn’t yield anything.
The Golden Knights were unable to capitalize on either power play, but only seconds after it expired, they broke through.
Alec Martinez fired the puck into an open net that was created by a beautiful shot fake from Theodore, which completely fooled Price.
On a 2-on-1 break for Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty, Stone got a feed from Pacioretty but was robbed by Price, who made the glove save.
The Golden Knights began to buzz, and it led to yet another power play after Joel Edmunson was whistled for a slash. The power play was short-lived, however, as Theodore tripped a dashing Paul Byron, which sent the game to 4-on-4.
Shortly after the penalties expired, Vegas got another crack at the power play as Chandler Stephenson was tripped up entering the offensive zone. The Golden Knights were once again unable to tally a goal on the man advantage, which finished the game 0-for-4.
But the next penalty would prove to be costly.
William Carrier was whistled for roughing, setting up the first career playoff goal for rookie Cole Caufield, who fired one into the net off a rebound. He had multiple chances but was finally able to cut the Vegas lead in half.
The Golden Knights answered almost immediately, though.
After another key offensive-zone faceoff win, Tuch fired one towards the net, and after a few deflections, the puck found Mattias Janmark in front. He buried it to help Vegas reestablish the two-goal lead, making it a 3-1 game at 12:58 of the second period.
Price continued to be stellar. Stone made a great play to steal the puck in Montreal’s end, and he sent the puck across to the zone to a wide-open Marchessault. However, Price was able to get over in time to stop the one-timer, which Marchessault was unable to lift.
In the third period, the Golden Knights began to shut things down, not allowing many chances and controlling the flow of the game.
Tuch continued to have a great game as he hit the post while the Golden Knights continued to push. Moments later, a fantastic shift by the second line resulted in a goal to make it 4-1.
Nick Holden beat Price after some great passing, which extended the lead to three. Once again, Price was out of position, and the Knights took advantage.
Throughout the third period, the Golden Knights did an excellent job shutting down all opportunities that the Canadiens tried to generate.
That is, until the final few minutes of the game.
The Canadiens pulled Price with over four minutes remaining in regulation, and Fleury was forced to stand on his head, making some excellent saves down the stretch to seal the game for the Golden Knights.
After getting outshot 12-8 in the first period, Vegas held a 13-5 edge in the second and held Montreal to five shots for most of the period. However, Montreal generated seven shots in the final 1:37 of regulation. Fleury stood tall, however, securing the 90th playoff win of his career. He is now two wins shy of Grant Fuhr for third on the all-time list.
This is the first time the Knights have won Game 1 in the third round of the playoffs; they lost the first game against Winnipeg in 2018 and Dallas in 2020.
The Knights have won five straight games on home ice and will look to make it six when the series continues Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.