The Golden Knights are coming off a 5-4 victory against the Ottawa Senators that left much to be desired. It was not the club’s strongest effort by any means.
For one thing, the team nearly blew a four-goal lead. For another, the Golden Knights were outplayed for most of the game.
This afternoon presents a fresh start for the Golden Knights, who have mediocre results against the Canadiens over the last five years. Specifically, Vegas is 3-2-3 in regular-season contests and lost to Montreal in six games two years ago in the third round of the playoffs.
The Golden Knights were victorious in both contests last season, however, securing a 5-2 win on the road almost a year ago (Nov. 6, 2021) and a 4-3 overtime victory at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 20.
In the road battle, the Canadiens jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period, but Vegas proceeded to score five unanswered goals, two of which came on the man advantage.
Nick Suzuki — drafted 13th overall by Vegas in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft and subsequently traded to Montreal in the deal for Max Pacioretty — was named captain in the offseason, becoming the 31st in Canadiens franchise history.
He leads the team in scoring with six goals and 13 points in 11 games, followed closely by Cole Caufield, who has seven goals and 12 points.
Suzuki found the scoresheet in both contests against his former team last season, scoring a goal and an assist in the first meeting and tallying an assist in the second.
Today’s game would have been Evgenii Dadonov’s first taste of revenge against his former team — the one that infamously traded him in a deal that was later nullified — but the former Golden Knights forward was placed on injured reserve and will be out of the lineup. He has zero points and a minus-three rating in eight games with Montreal this season.
Montreal has gotten decent goaltending this season. Jake Allen is 3-4-0 with a 2.88 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in seven starts, while Sam Montembeault is 2-1-0 with a 2.47 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in four starts.
Historically, Allen has a 2-1-3 record with a 3.11 goals-against average and .884 save percentage against Vegas. Montembeault is 0-1-1 and stopped 92 of 101 shots for a .911 save percentage but holds a goals-against average of 4.11.
Adin Hill is 1-1-0 with a 1.52 goals-against average, .942 save percentage and one shutout against Montreal, while Logan Thompson has yet to face the Canadiens.
Since last year, the Canadiens added Flames center Sean Monahan as well as Blackhawks center Kirby Dach, and first-overall pick Juraj Slafkovsky has two goals in his first eight games of NHL hockey.
Montreal is 5-5-1 through 11 games and is coming off back-to-back losses (0-1-1), including a 4-1 defeat in Minnesota as well as a 3-2 overtime loss to the Jets. Montreal is one of 13 teams with a points percentage at or below .500.
Only four teams are averaging fewer goals per game than the Canadiens’ 2.73, while Vegas sits in 12th place with 3.33. However, Vegas sits atop league in goals against per game with an average of just 1.92; Montreal is 14th at 3.09.
The Golden Knights’ special teams have been average, with the power play (21.2 percent) ranking 17th and the penalty kill coming in at 16th with a 78.6 percent success rate. Montreal’s penalty kill has been solid, killing off 80.6 percent of opposing teams’ power plays, good for 13th in the NHL.
However, the Canadiens’ power play has been one of the worst in the league. The Habs have converted just four times this season and are ranked 29th with a 12.9 percent efficacy rate. Only one team (Columbus) has fewer power-play goals this season, and the Blue Jackets didn’t score that goal until yesterday.
But while Montreal power play has not been a threat, the Golden Knights need to play with more discipline than they did in Ottawa, especially considering the skilled forwards in Montreal’s lineup. Both teams scored at least once on the power play in both games last year, with Montreal scoring one in each and Vegas potting a total of four.
Thursday’s win against Ottawa marked the first time since Oct. 18 that the Golden Knights took more than two penalties. While it didn’t end up costing Vegas the two points, it certainly helped Ottawa build momentum, which helped contribute to Vegas’ near-collapse.
That’s not a bad habit the Golden Knights want to risk forming.
As per usual, the Misfit Line and Shea Theodore lead the way in scoring in the all-time series; Jonathan Marchessault has a team-high five goals and 11 points, while the trio has combined for 28 points in eight games. Theodore has one goal and seven points in six games.
Only one (Brendan Gallagher) of five players with the most points in the all-time series against Vegas remains on the team, with Phillip Danault, Max Domi, Tomas Tatar and Jeff Petry wearing other sweaters. Gallagher has two goals and six points in six games against the Golden Knights; no one else on the team has more than three points.
Thompson has not gotten more than two consecutive starts this season, so Hill could get the nod today in Montreal.