The Vegas Golden Knights came back home to host the Montreal Canadiens for a must-have Game 5 Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena. However, the home team was outplayed and outworked for most of the night, resulting in a 4-1 loss that puts Vegas on the verge of being eliminated.
Vegas received a very important reinforcement ahead of the game, as Chandler Stephenson made his return to the lineup. Marc-Andre Fleury was back in the crease after Robin Lehner’s excellent performance in Game 4.
Fleury was good when he was needed and can not be blamed for this one.
The Golden Knights got out to a roaring start, as they hemmed the Canadiens in for multiple shifts and drew an early penalty as Zach Whitecloud was cross-checked. The Golden Knights had one good look early but in the end were unable to capitalize on the man-advantage.
The Habs quickly countered.
Josh Anderson got a step on Whitecloud and received a pass at the blue line, setting up a partial breakaway. Fleury made a great save on the initial attempt, but as Fleury was sprawled out, he was unable to control the rebound. Nick Holden got caught watching the play and did not get back to help Fleury tie up the stick of Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who shoveled the puck into the open cage.
The Habs began to control the game after this point, but Fleury stood tall when he was called upon. As the horn sounded, Montreal headed to the room up by a goal, which was a fortunate result for the Knights through 20 minutes.
Throughout the second period, the Habs continued to not allow the Golden Knights to get anything dangerous generated. The Knights had the puck in the offensive end, but it did not lead to quality looks.
The Habs struck again, as Nick Suzuki made great plays at both ends of the ice to set up Eric Staal in the slot to extend the lead. Staal was coming on to the ice on a line change, and Suzuki drew two Knights to the corner. Staal beat Fleury top-shelf to give Montreal a 2-0 lead at 6:32 of the second.
Things continued to snowball as Nicolas Roy was whistled for high-sticking. It was a careless penalty, and it proved to be very costly. The Habs scored on the ensuing power play, as Cole Caufield buried a one-timer past Fleury. The goal came after a rare Mark Stone turnover; Suzuki stripped the puck as Stone tried stick handling at Montreal’s blue line.
Shortly after, Shea Theodore was whistled for a pointless cross-check as the Knights’ frustrations continued to grow, but the Golden Knights were able to get the kill this time.
Late in the period, Stephenson was taken down on the way to the net by Shea Weber, which set up a Vegas power play with 2:50 remaining in the period. The Knights’ power-play struggles continued, however, and they were booed off the ice as the horn sounded.
Early in the third period, the Golden Knights finally broke through.
After a faceoff win by Roy, Pacioretty gathered the puck and slotted one past Carey Price. This was the first Vegas goal by a top-six forward in the entire series, though Pacioretty technically was moved to the third line for the play as Pete DeBoer shuffled the lines.
However, it was too little too late.
Vegas began to finally play with some desperation, but Price continued to be excellent and made a few huge stops, including this robbery of Reilly Smith.
Fleury went to the bench with 2:45 left in the period, but the Knights were unable to pull within one. Fittingly, Suzuki provided the dagger against his former team, tapping the puck into an empty net to seal the game and put a bow on a three-point night for the excellent young star.
The Golden Knights now face elimination in Game 6 in Montreal on Thursday, but they have a chance to send the series back to Vegas for a Game 7.
DeBoer and Co. have many answers to find in the next 48 hours. But no matter what, the top forwards must be better; the season depends on it.