Golden Knights 5, Canadiens 2: The power play lives
After an eventful first period, Vegas turned it on thanks to timely goals.
Twenty to one. The Golden Knights were outshot 20-1 in the first period.
And still won the game.
The Golden Knights, behind five unanswered goals in the final 40 minutes, overcame what was the most they’ve been dominated in a game in a while to win 5-2 against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday for their first ever regular season win at Bell Centre.
Perhaps more importantly than that — and winning for a fifth time and six games and crossing the .500 threshold is important to the current state of this roster — the Golden Knights converted twice on the power play in the second period to jumpstart that five-goal barrage that seemed impossible after 20 minutes.
The first 20 minutes saw flashbacks of the Stanley Cup Semifinals. The Canadiens out-attempted Vegas 33-5, had eight high-danger chances, and held the Golden Knights to 0.01 expected goals.
“Obviously we weren’t happy with how we came out,” Robin Lehner said. “It’s been a little bit of a trend that we obviously have to look at.”
The Golden Knights’ lone shot on goal was a point shot from Alex Pietrangelo 11 minutes into the frame.
Lehner did everything he could, for the third time in this road trip, to keep the Golden Knights in the game. He made 18 saves and was just under three minutes from keeping Montreal goal-less. But Nick Suzuki converted on the power play at 17:18, and Tyler Toffoli scored on a breakaway 1:31 later to give the Canadiens a 2-0 lead at first intermission.
The Golden Knights were lucky to only be down two goals, considering the position their goaltender has been put in for a bulk of this season. Lehner stopped all 16 shots in the first period Thursday against Ottawa, and 12 of 13 on Tuesday in Toronto.
“It’s a topic of conversation for us, giving up 15, 20 shots every first period,” Pietrangelo said. “He’s been outstanding all year. Tonight’s another example of it. We have to get to our game early. We can’t rely on him every single first period to stop pucks, but he’s been absolutely phenomenal.”
Vegas gave Lehner some help in the second with three goals in less than seven minutes. Pietrangelo scored for the second straight game at 5:16, 11 seconds into the power play, to cut the lead to 2-1. Pietrangelo’s one-time blast from the left circle beat Jake Allen for Vegas’ first goal on the man advantage this season and its first in 20 attempts.
Jonathan Marchessault potted his third goal in two games just over five minutes later to tie it 2-2. Nicolas Hague’s shot from the high slot caromed off the boards, Nicolas Roy touched the loose puck to Marchessault at the backdoor and roofed a backhand over Allen to tie it.
Dylan Coghlan scored Vegas’ second power-play goal 1:36 later for a 3-2 lead, a wristshot from above the right circle aided by a screen in front from Keegan Kolesar.
“It may mean more to you than me,” coach Pete DeBoer said laughing, now coaching a unit that is at 9.5 percent this season and no longer at the bottom of the league. “Every time you go another game without scoring on it, you hear about it. That pressure starts to build. It’s taken a little bit of time, but timely tonight.”
The Golden Knights had a 10-9 edge in shots in the second period, but they capitalized on those attempts for the first time this season. That’s been lacking for Vegas as it’s tried to weave through the haystack of needles without Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
Right now, the one leading them through that is Lehner. His 36 saves are only more impressive when one considers he stopped nine of 11 high-danger chances from Montreal and his expected goals against were 3.47.
He’s not off to the start that Jacob Markstrom or Frederik Andersen is, but Lehner should be in that category for how he’s carried the Knights to six wins in 11 games. That’s a mark no one expected.
Lehner will get a day off Sunday when the Golden Knights play the second half of a back-to-back against the Detroit Red Wings. Laurent Brossoit will relieve him for a night before Vegas returns home after what could be deemed a successful road trip already.
“Every point matters right now. It’s simple as that,” Lehner said. “A win like this is good for us to look in the mirror and do the right thing all the time.”