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NHL Nick's Net

B’s and Habs reignite rivalry for first time since pandemic

It had been 641 days since the Boston Bruins last met the Montréal Canadiens in the regular season on Feb. 12, 2020. Less than a month after the Bruins beat the Habs, 4-1, that night at TD Garden, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that COVID-19 was a global pandemic.

The rest of the 2019-20 regular season was canceled after before the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs were held in a bubble about five months later. The entire 2020-21 season was shortened to 56 games and temporarily realigned to create an all-Canadian division to comply with COVID-19 public health accommodations across Canada.

The Bruins were eliminated in the 2021 Second Round by the New York Islanders and watched as Montréal went all the way to the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– only to lose in five games to the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sunday night in Boston, the B’s met the Canadiens for the first time during the ongoing pandemic and came from behind to beat their longest, most storied rival, 5-2, on home ice.

17,850 fans in attendance packed TD Garden with proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test and masks required for entry.

The “Olé Olé Olé” chant was sung sarcastically in the third period as the Bruins pulled ahead and a Massachusetts native had a pair of goals in the victory.

A few things look different than in 2020.

Carey Price is on a personal leave of absence, while Tuukka Rask is currently unsigned and just started skating last week in an attempt to return from major hip surgery in the offseason.

Both goaltenders in Sunday night’s matchup made their Boston vs. Montréal debuts.

Jeremy Swayman (5-2-0, 2.16 goals-against average, .914 save percentage in seven games played) came out on top with the win for the B’s and made 27 saves on 29 shots faced in the effort.

Canadiens goaltender, Sam Montembeault (0-3-1, 3.78 goals-against average, .890 save percentage in five games played), turned aside 36 out of 40 shots against in the loss.

Boston improved to 8-5-0 (16 points) overall and remained in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division, while Montréal dropped to 4-11-2 (10 points) on the season and stuck in 7th place in the Atlantic.

The Bruins were once again without the services of Trent Frederic (upper body) on Sunday, while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, made a couple of minor changes to his lineup from Saturday afternoon’s, 5-2, victory in New Jersey to Sunday night’s matchup with Montréal.

Karson Kuhlman was placed on the right side of Erik Haula with Anton Blidh at left wing, while Oskar Steen entered the lineup on the “fourth” line with Tomáš Nosek at center and Jake DeBrusk at left wing.

Steen replaced Curtis Lazar, who joined Mike Reilly and Craig Smith on Boston’s short list of healthy scratches against the Canadiens.

Josh Anderson kicked the night off with a cross checking infraction against Brad Marchand at 3:20 of the first period, but the Bruins weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play.

Moments later, after controlling possession in the attacking zone, Boston was caught with a defender pinching in as Connor Clifton raced to get back to his spot as Montréal started a rush the other way leading to a 2-on-1.

Instead of passing the puck, however, Joel Armia (1) ripped a shot over Swayman’s glove on the short side to give the Canadiens the night’s first lead, 1-0, at 8:09 of the first period.

Artturi Lehkonen (5) had the only assist on Armia’s first goal of the season as the Habs struck first.

The two teams had a little string of penalties as the first intermission drew near.

Late in the opening frame, Jake Evans tripped Marchand at 15:35, but Boston couldn’t capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage– nor could they do much on the power play at 18:23, when Brendan Gallagher went to the box for slashing Blidh, though that was more so due to the fact that the advantage was cut short when Marchand tripped Lehkonen at 18:59.

For the next 1:24, the two teams skated at 4-on-4, prior to yielding an abbreviated power play to Montréal that extended into the middle frame.

After one period, the Canadiens led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 12-11.

The B’s held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), while the Habs led in takeaways (2-1) and hits (12-10).

Both teams had one giveaway each and split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, heading into the first intermission.

Montréal was 0/1 and Boston was 0/3 on the power play through 20 minutes.

Jakub Zboril snaked his way through the neutral zone while working a pass to lead Taylor Hall into the attacking zone on his 30th birthday almost midway through the second period.

Hall sent a shot on goal that rebounded off Montembeault and almost landed in the right spot for Nick Foligno to get his stick on the loose puck, but not before Charlie McAvoy (2) pinched in from the point, crashed the slot and sent the rubber biscuit past the Canadiens netminder on the low blocker side– tying the game, 1-1, in the process at 8:27 of the second period.

Hall (5) and Zboril (1) tallied the assists on McAvoy’s first goal of the night.

Late in the period, however, Zboril missed an open ice hit fresh from the bench off of a line change, leading to an overabundance of Montréal skaters getting into their attacking zone before Boston could catch up.

A shot from the Canadiens pinballed off of Swayman, might have hit a Bruin and slipped through to the back of the twine– giving Montréal a, 2-1, lead and Michael Pezzetta (1) his first career National Hockey League goal in the process.

Adam Brooks (1) and Anderson (4) had the assists on Pezzetta’s goal at 16:25 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Canadiens led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite Boston controlling shots on goal, 31-22, including a, 20-10, advantage in the second period alone.

The Bruins held the advantage in blocked shots (8-6) and giveaways (6-5), while Montréal led in takeaways (3-2), as well as faceoff win% (55-45).

Both teams had 23 hits each, while the Habs were 0/1 and the B’s were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Jeff Petry was assessed a holding infraction at 1:25 of the third period and presented the Bruins with a power play as a result.

It didn’t take long for Boston to be successful on their fourth skater advantage of the night as Marchand setup McAvoy (3) for the wrist shot from the high slot over Montembeault’s glove through traffic– tying the game, 2-2, in the process.

Marchand (11) had the only assist on McAvoy’s power-play goal as the B’s tied things up, 2-2, on the scoreboard and McAvoy earned his first career two-goal game in the process at 2:14 of the third period.

A few minutes later– with a surge in momentum– Charlie Coyle sent a pass back to David Pastrnak for a shot that rebounded off of Montembeault prior to Petry getting a stick on it and attempting to clear it from the slot.

Petry, instead, inadvertently sent the puck off of Coyle’s (4) head and into Montréal’s own net, giving the Bruins their first lead of the night, 3-2, on Coyle’s unintentional individual effort at 5:58.

Right place, right time (depending on how you look at it).

Between McAvoy’s second goal and Coyle’s first of the night, Boston rallied for two goals in a span of 3:34.

It wasn’t that much longer before the Bruins scored again as Coyle (5) won a race off the boards into the attacking zone on a chip-in indirect pass from DeBrusk and crashed the net before roofing the rubber biscuit on the short side.

DeBrusk (1) and Steen (2) tallied the assists on Coyle’s second goal of the game and the Bruins pulled ahead, 4-2, at 9:05 of the third period.

Coyle’s pair of goals were scored almost three minutes apart from one another in a span of 3:07 before things settled down until late in the final frame.

With his team trailing by two goals, Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, pulled Montembeault for an extra attacker with about 2:30 remaining on the clock.

Things didn’t go as planned for Montréal, however.

An errant attempt to get the puck out of his own zone from Brandon Carlo hit a linesman before Pastrnak scooped it up, brought it into the attacking zone and sent it over to Hall (4) for the empty net goal at 18:02.

Pastrmak (9) and Carlo (1) were credited with the assists as Hall’s birthday goal sealed the deal on a, 5-2, win for Boston.

Canadiens defender, Chris Wideman, was given a misconduct after the goal at 18:02 and got an early ticket out of the rink to the dressing room as a result.

At the final horn, the Bruins had won, 5-2, and finished the night leading in shots on goal, 41-29, including a, 10-7, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s wrapped up Sunday night leading in blocked shots (10-7) and hits (31-29), while Montréal left TD Garden with the advantage in giveaways (7-6) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Habs finished Sunday’s effort 0/1 on the power play, while Boston went 1/4 on the skater advantage.

Boston also improved to 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-2-0 (2-0-0 at home) when trailing after the first period and 1-3-0 (1-0-0 at home) when trailing after two periods this season.

The Canadiens dropped to 2-4-2 (1-3-1 on the road) when scoring the game’s first goal, 3-3-2 (1-2-1 on the road) when leading after the first period and 3-1-0 (1-1-0 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins have five days off before hitting the road to face the Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday (Nov. 20th).

The B’s return home next Sunday to host the Calgary Flames.

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NHL Nick's Net Previews

Montréal Canadiens 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 24-21-11, 59 points

4th in the Scotia NHL North Division

Eliminated in the Stanley Cup Final by Tampa

Additions: F Jean-Sébastien Dea, F Christian Dvorak (acquired from ARI), F Mike Hoffman, F Cedric Paquette, F Mathieu Perreault, D Louis Belpedio, D Sami Niku, D David Savard, D Chris Wideman, G Sam Montembeault (claimed off waivers from FLA)

Subtractions: F Phillip Danault (signed with LAK), F Charles Hudon (signed with TBL), F Jesperi Kotkaniemi (offer sheet signed with CAR, not matched), F Jake Lucchini (signed with Laval Rocket, AHL), F Corey Perry (signed with TBL), F Tomas Tatar (signed with NJD), F Jordan Weal (KHL), D Cale Fleury (expansion, SEA), D Erik Gustafsson (signed with CHI), D Otto Leskinen (Liiga), D Jon Merrill (signed with MIN), D Gustav Olofsson (signed with SEA), G Vasili Demchenko (KHL), G Charlie Lindgren (signed with STL)

Still Unsigned: F Joseph Blandisi, F Michael Frolik, F Eric Staal

Re-signed: F Joel Armia, F Brandon Baddock, F Alex Belzile, F Laurent Dauphin, F Artturi Lehkonen, F Michael Pezzetta, F Ryan Poehling, F Lukas Vejdemo, G Michael McNiven

Offseason Analysis: After back-to-back miracle runs to the postseason aided by the circumstances of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Montréal Canadiens are expected to fall back to Earth in 2021-22.

The Canadiens were a .500 team that upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers, then Montréal was a below .500 team that benefitted from the four teams per division playoff format in 2021.

Any of the 16 teams that make the playoffs can win the Cup and the Canadiens almost bested the 2012 Los Angeles Kings in terms of being a long shot to do so, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had other plans in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Instead, the Bolts repeated as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions while Montréal was eliminated in five games in a Game 5 that was decided by one goal– the only goal, scored by Ross Colton a little past the midpoint of the second period, as the Lightning emerged victorious with a, 1-0, win on home ice to secure their third Stanley Cup ring in franchise history.

Corey Perry lost to Tampa in back-to-back years and, as such, as taken the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mantra to heart in the offseason, signing a two-year contract worth $1.000 million per season with the Lightning.

Fear not, Habs fans, unlike when Marian Hossa bounced from the Pittsburgh Penguins to the Detroit Red Wings before landing in Chicago ahead of the 2009-10 season, Perry’s already won a Cup ring. He’s just in search of his second before the twilight of his career reaches sunset.

Montréal’s cast of characters in Perry, Eric Staal and others that joined the leadership of captain, Shea Weber– whether via free agency ahead of the 2020-21 season or prior to the 2021 trade deadline– has mostly disbanded.

Whether or not Canadiens General Manager, Marc Bergevin, planned on making an appearance in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final or not as the 56-game regular season approached last season, it’s hard to say that he didn’t give the Habs their best roster in recent years.

They replaced Claude Julien with Dominique Ducharme behind the bench after a shaky start and rode the waves of change into a fourth-place finish in the one-off Scotia NHL North Division to take on the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2021 First Round.

They didn’t surrender when they trailed in the series 3-1, as Cole Caufield, Nick Suzuki and Jesperi Kotkaniemi followed the examples of Perry, Staal, Joel Armia, Tyler Toffoli and other veterans that led the charge.

Montréal beat Toronto in seven games. They swept the Winnipeg Jets in the Second Round and upset the Vegas Golden Knights in six games in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals.

Then David faced Goliath, but Goliath won.

Because of the nature of the salary cap era, Bergevin couldn’t hold onto all of his puzzle pieces.

Perry, Staal, Jordan Weal, Phillip Danault, Charlie Lindgren, Jon Merrill, Tomas Tatar, Kotkaniemi and Erik Gustafsson are all gone for one reason or another, while Mike Hoffman, Cedric Paquette, David Savard, Chris Wideman, Mathieu Perreault, Sami Niku and Sam Montembeault have all been signed to take their place on the depth chart.

The heart of the Canadiens– however recently formed– is changing. The identity of the team last season– forged with the additions of Perry and Staal to the already existent tenures of Danault, Weber, Price and Co. is in transition.

Whereas Suzuki was already leading the charge in Montréal’s new core, this offseason has solidified the inevitable. It may not be a rebuild, but it may be a few more stagnant years in-between before long term success and growth.

It’s crazy to write about how the Habs– a team that made the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– are not going to be as “good” as they were good enough to reach the Final, but it also makes the most sense.

Again, in a normal 82-game season without the pandemic, the Canadiens likely wouldn’t have even made the playoffs in the last two years.

The fact that they have has provided valuable experience for Suzuki, Jake Evans, Ryan Poehling and more, but the veteran turnover from last season to this season is palpable.

The additions of Hoffman, Paquette, Savard, Wideman and Perreault signal a distinct shift in character.

Heart and grit be damned– Montréal is wholly embracing the speed and skill era. Sort of.

Hoffman joined the St. Louis Blues on a one-year deal last season after amassing five consecutive seasons with at least 55 points or more dating back to the 2015-16 season. His play in an Ottawa Senators uniform was consistent, but his dressing room presence earned him a ticket to the San Jose Sharks in a trade before being flipped to the Florida Panthers ahead of the 2018-19 season.

After amassing 70 points in 82 games with the Panthers in his first season in Florida, Hoffman had 59 points in 69 games in the 2019-20 regular season that was cut short by the ongoing pandemic.

Then he had 17-19–36 totals in 52 games with the Blues last season after a slow start.

As a top-nine forward, Hoffman’s one-dimensional game as a sniper isn’t that bad as long as he scores.

Since being traded by the Lightning, Paquette had a little bit of a journey on his way to Montréal. First, in nine games with the Senators last season he had one goal. Then in 38 games with the Carolina Hurricanes, he amassed seven points (three goals, four assists) for a grand total of 4-4–8 totals in 47 games combined between his Sens and Canes tenure.

As a fourth liner, it’s a low-risk, high-reward move for the Habs, but that’s assuming he’ll be in the lineup from night-to-night as the Canadiens have a backlog of bottom-six talent looking to earn a regular role.

Savard might just be the best value signing this summer by Bergevin. The 30-year-old defender was signed to a four-year contract worth $3.500 million per season and had six points (one goal, five assists) from the blue line in 54 games with the Columbus Blue Jackets and Lightning last season en route to winning his first Stanley Cup ring.

Don’t let his offensive shortfalls fool you, Savard is a quality shutdown defender of the top-four variety.

Seriously, it’s a good signing by the Canadiens.

Wideman hasn’t made an appearance in the NHL since the 2018-19 season, when he played for the Senators until the infamous Uber ride, then was traded to the Edmonton Oilers and finally traded again to the Panthers.

In 181 career NHL games, he’s had 16-29–45 totals from the point and spent 2019-20 in the American Hockey League with the San Diego Gulls after signing with the Anaheim Ducks and missing out on the roster after training camp and spending last season in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) in Russia.

While in the KHL, Wideman reinvented his game– compiling 9-32–41 totals in 59 games with Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod.

With Niku on the injured reserve to start the season and Weber’s career in doubt, Wideman is a welcome addition to the bottom pairing as Montréal looks to hold things together in their own end with Carey Price out indefinitely (Price entered the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program last Thursday) and Jake Allen as their last resort as the de facto starting goaltender.

Meanwhile, Perreault’s arrival shores up the fourth line and Montembeault should provide an added cushion as a backup option to Allen in the crease.

By now, you’ve read almost 1,300 words on Montréal’s summer and we haven’t even gotten around to talking about the ongoing feud with the Hurricanes as a result of the Kotkaniemi offer sheet, as well as the Christian Dvorak acquisition.

Let’s try to keep this brief, O.K.?

Carolina signing Kotkaniemi wasn’t revenge (allegedly) for Montréal signing Sebastian Aho to an offer sheet, but it was an offer that was too good to refuse (for Kotkaniemi, anyway).

A one-year deal worth about $6.100 million with a $20 signing bonus (symbolism!) means that Kotkaniemi will be due for a decent payday if he’s tendered a qualifying offer next summer.

The Canadiens didn’t have the cap space and even the Hurricanes had to make a move to finagle his salary on the books. The Habs will gladly take Carolina’s 2022 1st round and 2022 3rd round draft picks, despite losing one of their better centers for the future.

It was hard enough to let Danault walk to the Los Angeles Kings in free agency, surely things only got harder for Montréal to find a replacement after Kotkaniemi left too– oh.

After swapping draft picks on the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft in three separate trades, Bergevin made his only trade that resulted in a change to Montréal’s roster this offseason on Sept. 4th.

The Canadiens dealt a conditional 2022 1st round pick and a 2024 2nd round pick to the Arizona Coyotes for Dvorak and with that brought in his 17-14–31 totals in 56 games from last season to their top-six forward group.

Since making his league debut in 2016-17, Dvorak has never reached the 40-point plateau, but with teammates like Toffoli, Hoffman, Jonathan Drouin, Josh Anderson, Caufield and anyone else that might bounced around inside the top two lines on any given night– Dvorak is sure to have a more consistent supporting cast around him than in his Coyotes days.

Offseason Grade: C

It’s not a great look to have mismanaged Kotkaniemi over the years– culminating in the loss of his talent via an offer sheet, but what’s more concerning for the Canadiens is just how much of what made them pernicious in their Cinderella run to the Final last year that they lost.

It wasn’t just one or two minor moves that were made to improve from last season to this season– Bergevin made some sweeping changes, by necessity or otherwise.

The top-six forward group should be fine, but do the Habs have the same level of depth that they had last season? That’s another question entirely.

At the very least, they’re not getting caught up having an overstayed welcome with replacement level talent, yet their window in the Price era may be coming to a close.

Hopefully Price gets the help that he needs most as there’s a lot more to life than just hockey. In the meantime, time marches on as the 34-year-old goaltender is susceptible to the inevitable fallout from a goaltender’s prime.

Montréal may very well win another Cup someday soon, but Price might be in a more limited role as the club’s backup by then, if all things go according to plan with this ideally seamless transition from a team that lucked into postseason runs.

The Habs need to improve in the regular season in a division that’s already tough enough to compete in with Tampa, Toronto, Florida and Boston expected to be in the playoff hunt in the Atlantic Division.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning repeat as Stanley Cup champions in Game 5 shutout

Ross Colton’s goal was more than enough to seal the deal on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history Wednesday night at Amalie Arena in Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 22 saves in a, 1-0, shutout victory on home ice over the Montréal Canadiens as he became the first goaltender since legendary Canadiens goaltender, Ken Dryden, to play in every playoff game en route to winning back-to-back Stanley Cup rings.

It was also the 5th shutout (6th of his postseason career) for Vasilevskiy this postseason as the Lightning goaltender became the first in league history to win all four series clinching games in a shutout.

He’s also won his last five consecutive playoff series’ in shutout fashion as Tampa shutout the Dallas Stars, 2-0, in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final before going on their 2021 run by shutting out the Florida Panthers, 4-0, in Game 6 of Tampa’s 2021 First Round matchup, eliminating the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-0, in Game 5 in the 2021 Second Round and beating the New York Islanders and Canadiens, 1-0, in Game 7 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals and Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final, respectively.

Colton was also the fourth rookie to score a Stanley Cup clinching goal since 1927, in Wednesday night’s effort.

The Bolts are back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, having won the Cup in 2020 and 2021, as the first repeat champions since the Pittsburgh Penguins did so in 2016 and 2017.

Tampa also did so in a span of about 10 months, since the ongoing global pandemic altered the National Hockey League’s postseason calendar for 2020, and shortened the 2020-21 league calendar to 56 games in the regular season, followed by a postseason that began in May and ended in the first week of July.

Last year, the Lightning raised the Cup as the designated road team at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta at a neutral site as the NHL played through the COVID-19 pandemic in a bubble in the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

This year, for the first time in 17 years, the Bolts raised the Cup in front of their home fans as 2004 Stanley Cup champion with Tampa, Dave Andreychuk, watched along in attendance to cap the 2020-21 Lightning’s run.

In 2004, NHL on ESPN and NHL on ABC coverage had come to an end with the conclusion of Tampa’s Game 7 victory over the Calgary Flames in the Stanley Cup Final.

The 2004-05 season-long lockout that ultimately canceled all NHL action for the year meant that ESPN could punt their broadcasting rights to the 2005-06 season or opt out altogether.

They chose the latter.

That’s when NBC stepped in and the NHL had games on Outdoor Life Network, then Versus, NBC Sports Network (which shortly rebranded as NBCSN), as well as on NBC.

In 2021, NHL on NBC signed off for the final time as the league shifts its focus back to ESPN/Disney and Turner Sports for the next seven seasons in the United States starting with the 2021-22 season (the 2021 Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be on ESPN2 this month, if you’re wondering).

Back at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, Vasilevskiy (16-7, 1.90 goals-against average, .937 save percentage in 23 games played) made 22 saves on 22 shots against en route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs’ Most Valuable Player.

Montréal goaltender, Carey Price (13-9, 2.28 goals-against average, .924 save percentage in 22 games) stopped 29 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, improved to 9-0 all time in a series when leading 2-0, while the Bolts became the first team to raise the Cup on home ice since Chicago did so in 2015.

Pat Maroon, meanwhile, also became the first player (and fourth overall) since Ed Litzenberger to win three consecutive Cups with two different teams as Litzenberger won with Chicago in 1961, as well as Toronto from 1962-64.

Neither Habs head coach, Dominique Ducharme, nor Cooper, made a change to their lineups for Game 5 on Wednesday.

Alex Killorn remained out of the lineup for the Lightning for fourth game in-a-row after blocking a shot in Game 1. He told reporters after the game that he suffered a broken left fibula in Game 1 and wanted to suit up again if he could play.

Corey Perry kicked things off in Game 5 with a hooking infraction as Perry impeded Mathieu Joseph’s play and presented the Lightning with the game’s first power play at 3:21 of the first period.

Tampa couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, the Canadiens got their first chance on the power play as Jan Rutta cross checked Artturi Lehkonen at 7:19.

Montréal’s time on the advantage was unchanged as Erik Cernak earned an interference minor and Perry was assessed an embellishment infraction almost a minute after Rutta cut a rut to the penalty box at 8:15.

About 30 seconds after Cernak and Perry went to the sin bin, though, Josh Anderson hooked Blake Coleman and joined his teammates in Montréal’s box at 8:43 of the opening frame.

The two teams skated at 4-on-4 for 37 seconds before Tampa had an abbreviated power play thereafter.

Just past the midpoint of the first period, the Bolts were outshooting the Habs, 11-2, with 9:53 remaining in the opening period– reminiscent of how the Lightning outshot the Canadiens, 11-1, through the first half of the first period in Game 4.

Entering the first intermission, the score was still tied, 0-0, despite Tampa outshooting Montréal, 13-4.

The Bolts also held the advantage in blocked shots (3-0), takeaways (2-1) and hits (25-16), while the Habs led in faceoff win percentage (52-48) after one period.

Both teams had three giveaways each while the Canadiens were 0/1 and the Lightning were 0/2 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

David Savard sent an errant puck over the glass and out of play and received an automatic minor 21 seconds into the second period, but the Habs couldn’t score on the resulting power play.

Almost midway through the second frame, Mikhail Sergachev tripped up Nick Suzuki and presented the Canadiens with another power play that went by the wayside at 8:32.

Moments later in Tampa’s attacking zone, Ryan McDonagh made a lateral pass along the blue line to Savard, who promptly crashed the slot and slid a shot pass towards the crease for Colton (4) to redirect into the twine.

Savard (5) and McDonagh (8) had the assists on Colton’s goal as the Lightning took a, 1-0, lead at 13:27 of the second period.

Keeping in the trend with the rest of the series– the team that scored first in each game won the game.

Late in the period, Ben Chiarot yanked Brayden Point down on a breakaway, yielding a power play to the Bolts as a result as Chiarot was assessed with a holding infraction at 19:22.

Though the ensuing skater advantage spanned the end of the second period and the start of the final frame of regulation, the Bolts couldn’t find a way to solve Montréal’s penalty kill.

After 40 minutes of action at Amalie Arena on Wednesday night, the Lightning lead the Canadiens, 1-0, on the scoreboard and were outshooting the Habs, 19-14, despite Montréal holding a, 10-6, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

Tampa held the lead in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (7-3), giveaways (10-3) and hits (44-35), while the Canadiens led in faceoff win% (54-46).

Both teams were 0/3 on the power play heading into the final period.

Early in the third period, Nikita Kucherov had a great chance to score, but Price stood tall and shut him down while losing his stick and making desperation saves.

Montréal responded with a breakaway as Anderson burst into the zone with tremendous speed, was denied by Vasilevskiy and ultimately crashed back-first into the post and briefly went down the tunnel before returning for the rest of the game.

With 1:51 remaining in the third period, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker, but after a stoppage resulted in neutral zone faceoff, the Habs sent Price back into the crease for a few seconds to ensure a little security between the pipes if they lost the draw.

Montréal won the ensuing faceoff as Price once again sprinted for the bench with 1:36 remaining, but Tampa’s defense was too much for the Canadiens– though the Lightning’s offense couldn’t put an exclamation point on the game with an empty net goal.

The Habs used their timeout with 1:24 remaining as assistant coach, Alex Burrows, tried to rally his players for one last push.

At the final horn, Vasilevskiy and the Bolts earned a, 1-0, shutout in Game 5 and clinched their second-straight Stanley Cup ring in as many years.

Wednesday night marked the third time that Tampa won the Cup in franchise history.

The Bolts also improved to 17-3 all time when scoring first in series-clinching games.

Tampa finished Game 5 leading in shots on goal, 30-22, including an, 11-8, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning dominated in just about everything else at the end of the night, leading in giveaways (11-6), hits (56-48) and faceoff win% (52-48), while both teams had nine blocked shots each.

Montréal exited the building 0/3 on the power play, but then again, Tampa also struggled on the skater advantage in the action– going 0/3 on Wednesday night as well.

Tampa finished the 2021 postseason 16-7 overall, while the Habs went 13-9.

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NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Habs hold off elimination in overtime victory at home

For the first time since 1993, the Montréal Canadiens won a game in the Stanley Cup Final as Josh Anderson scored the game-winning goal almost four minutes into overtime to lift the Habs over the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-2, on Monday night at Bell Centre.

As a result of the loss, the Lightning hold onto a 3-1 series lead with their next chance to clinch back-to-back Cups on Wednesday night in front of their home fans at Amalie Arena in Game 5.

Carey Price (13-8, 2.34 goals-against average, .922 save percentage in 21 games played) stopped 32 out of 34 shots faced in the win for Montréal.

Tampa goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (15-7, 1.99 goals-against average, .935 save percentage in 22 games played), made 18 saves on 21 shots against in the loss.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, replaced Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Jon Merrill and Erik Gustafsson in his lineup with Jake Evans, Alex Romanov and Brett Kulak.

Ducharme put Romanov on the left side of Kulak on the third defensive pairing and switched up his top-nine forwards– promoting Tyler Toffoli to the left side of the first line with Phillip Danault at center and Brendan Gallagher on right wing, while Anderson was promoted to the second line with Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield remaining in place.

Meanwhile, Evans took over at center on the third line with Paul Byron on his left wing and Artturi Lehkonen on his right side.

Alex Killorn entered Monday night as a “game-time decision” according to Tampa’s head coach, Jon Cooper, and took part in warmup for the Lightning– but did not take part in any line rushes, so Cooper made no changes to his lineup from Game 3.

Attendance at Bell Centre was once again limited by the Québec provincial government and local health administrations and officially read as 3,500 fans for Game 4 as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues around the globe.

Past the midpoint of the opening frame, Tampa led Montréal in shots on goal, 10-1.

Unfortunately for the Lightning’s potent offense and shutdown defense, the Canadiens’ second shot on net was a goal.

The Bolts botched an effort to move the puck out of their own zone, while the Habs sustained pressure leading to a give-and-go for Suzuki and Caufield, whereby Suzuki then rid himself of the puck on a pass to Anderson (4) through the low slot from the trapezoid for a one-timer goal and the, 1-0, lead.

Suzuki (9) and Caufield (7) tallied the assists on Anderson’s goal as the Canadiens struck first at 15:39 of the first period and their first at any point in the series– ending a span of 255:39 without trailing for the Lightning since Game 7 against the New York Islanders in the 2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals round.

Less than a minute later, Evans and Brayden Point were off to the penalty box together as Evans was assessed an interference infraction and Point was given two-minutes for roughing at 16:33 of the first period.

The two clubs almost got through a pair of minutes at 4-on-4 without any issue before Joel Edmundson caught Blake Coleman with a slash at 17:59, yielding a 4-on-3 advantage for Tampa for 34 seconds before the remainder of an abbreviated 5-on-4 advantage for the Lightning would commence.

While on the ensuing power play, Point rang the post as the Bolts tried to even things up, but failed to convert on the advantage.

At the horn, both benches converged at center ice as the players were about to go back to the dressing rooms for the first intermission, but first exchanged some pleasantries.

Pat Maroon and Edmundson both received unsportsmanlike minors at 20:00 of the first period, which resulted in 4-on-4 action to start the middle frame.

After one period, Montréal led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Tampa holding a, 12-5, advantage in shots on goal.

The Habs led in blocked shots (5-3) and giveaways (7-2), while the Bolts held the advantage in takeaways (3-1), hits (15-13) and faceoff win percentage (79-21).

Tampa had the only skater advantage in the opening frame and went 0/1, while Montréal had yet to see time on the power play.

The Canadiens got their first chance on the skater advantage at 5:50 of the second period as Point caught Lehkonen with a high stick and cut a rut to the sin bin as a result.

The Habs failed to convert on the power play.

Moments later, Corey Perry cut a rut to the box for hooking Tyler Johnson at 9:43, but once again the Lightning couldn’t muster anything on the advantage.

Nor could the Bolts get anything going when Joel Armia tripped up Mathieu Joseph at 14:28 and presented Tampa with another power play as a result– despite Victor Hedman ringing the iron on a heavy shot.

Late in the period, Jeff Petry failed to clear the zone on a pass that was broken up by Ryan McDonagh.

The puck deflected off of McDonagh’s stick and sailed through the air to Coleman who worked it to McDonagh in the slot on a short pass as the Tampa defender pinched and dropped the rubber biscuit back to Barclay Goodrow (2) for the one-timer past Price while the Canadiens goaltender was out of position.

McDonagh (7) and Coleman (8) notched the assists as the Lightning tied it, 1-1, at 17:20 of the second period.

Entering the second intermission, the Bolts and Habs were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard despite Tampa leading in shots on net, 20-14, through 40 minutes of action.

Montréal, however, held the advantage in shots in the second period alone, 9-8, and led in giveaways (14-7), while the Lightning led in hits (30-28) after two periods.

Both teams had six blocked shots each, three takeaways each and split faceoff win%, 50-50, entering the final frame of regulation.

Tampa was 0/3 and Montréal was 0/1 on the power play heading into the third frame.

Almost midway into the final frame of regulation, Petry, Ben Chiarot, Anderson, Goodrow, Coleman and Yanni Gourde all received matching roughing minors for a scrum after the whistle at 7:42 of the third period.

The six skaters wouldn’t come out of the box for over six minutes as there weren’t many stoppages before their penalties expired.

About a minute after the six skaters went into the box, Romanov (1) wired a shot through traffic into the twine over Vasilevskiy’s blocker and just under the bar as Lehkonen skated by the Tampa netminder acting as a screen.

Evans (1) had the only assist on Romanov’s goal and the Habs took a, 2-1, lead at 8:48 of the third period, while Romanov became the youngest (21 years, 180 days) Canadiens defender in franchise history to score a goal in the Stanley Cup Final.

About five minutes later, Joseph led Maroon on a rush the other way from their own blue line into the attacking zone whereby Joseph setup Maroon (2) for a shot pass redirection goal to tie the game, 2-2, at 13:47.

Joseph (2) and Johnson (3) had the assists on Maroon’s goal.

Moments later, Nikita Kucherov hit the post– the third time of the night that Tampa registered a shot attempt off the iron– as the Bolts almost took the lead for the first time of the night.

Late in the period, off an attacking zone faceoff, Shea Weber caught Ondrej Palat with a stick to the face and drew some blood, yielding a four-minute double minor penalty at 18:59 of the third period.

Tampa’s advantage would spill over into the overtime period, but like the rest of the night, the Lightning couldn’t score on the skater advantage.

After regulation the Bolts and Habs were knotted up, 2-2, on the scoreboard despite Tampa holding the advantage in shots on goal, 30-19, including a, 10-5, advantage in the third period alone.

Montréal held the lead in blocked shots (17-15), takeaways (7-4), giveaways (19-13) and faceoff win% (55-46), while Tampa led in hits (36-34).

As there were no penalties called in overtime, the Lightning finished the night 0/5 on the power play, while the Canadiens went 0/1.

Tampa nearly allowed a shorthanded goal when Hedman blew a tire along the blue line and failed to keep the puck in the attacking zone while Danault and Suzuki were off to the races and generated a one-timer on Vasilevskiy that the Lightning goaltender turned aside.

As the Habs surged in momentum and the Bolts got off to a slow start in the extra frame, Cooper used his timeout after a stoppage with 17:33 remaining in overtime.

Shortly thereafter, Anderson beat Jan Rutta and led a rush the other way with Caufield before the two kept hacking away at the loose puck on a rebound until Anderson (5) slipped it past Vasilevskiy on the short side.

Caufield (8) had the only assist on the goal at 3:57.

Montréal took Game 5, 3-2, in overtime and cut Tampa’s series lead to 3-1 as a result.

Despite losing, the Lightning finished the night with more shots on goal– leading the Canadiens, 34-21, in that department, including a, 4-2, advantage in overtime alone.

The Habs finished Monday night’s effort leading in blocked shots (19-16), giveaways (20-13) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Tampa exited the building leading in hits (36-35).

The Bolts are 1-3 in their first attempts to close out a playoff series this postseason– only beating the Carolina Hurricanes on their first try in Game 5 of their Second Round matchup.

Tampa also had two losses in overtime in games when they had a chance to finish the series, including Game 6 on Long Island against the New York Islanders.

The Lightning are now 0-4 in overtime this postseason, while Montréal improved to 6-1 past regulation in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs– winning their first game in a Stanley Cup Final when facing elimination for the 12th time in franchise history and first since Game 7 against Chicago in the 1971 Stanley Cup Final.

Road teams are now 50-41-3 in a Stanley Cup Final game that required overtime after Monday night’s win for the home team Canadiens.

The most recent team to trail in the Final 3-0 to force a Game 5 was in 2014, when the New York Rangers forced the Los Angeles Kings to a Game 5 at Staples Center that the Kings ended up winning and taking home their second Stanley Cup championship in franchise history.

On Wednesday, the Lightning attempt to repeat Los Angeles’ success in a Game 5 on home ice as they’ll host Montréal at Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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Lightning rout Canadiens in Game 1 victory at home

Nikita Kucherov scored a pair of goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning cruised to a, 5-1, victory over the Montréal Canadiens Monday night at Amalie Arena in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (13-6, 1.94 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in 19 games) made 18 saves on 19 shots against in the win as the Lightning jumped out to a 1-0 series lead in the Final.

Habs netminder, Carey Price (12-6, 2.18 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in 18 games played), stopped 22 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

Jake Evans returned to the lineup for the Canadiens for the first time since sustaining a concussion on a charge from Mark Scheifele in Game 1 of Montréal’s Second Round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Evans missed the last nine games for the Habs.

Meanwhile, Joel Armia was cleared from COVID protocol on Monday, flew in a private jet to Tampa and participated in warmup, but was not ready to go as a game-time decision.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, will return to his regular role behind the bench in Montréal for Game 3, since testing positive for COVID-19 on June 18th and self-isolating.

In accordance with Canadian regulations, Ducharme will did not travel to the United States for Games 1 and 2 in Tampa, so he won’t have to quarantine for another 14 days when the series shifts to Montréal for Games 3 and 4.

Luke Richardson remains in command for the Habs until Bell Centre hosts its first Stanley Cup Final game.

16,300 fans filled Amalie Arena on Monday night as Tampa continues to loosen indoor COVID-19 restrictions in attendance in accordance with the NHL’s protocols. It was the largest crowd for a Lightning game since last season.

Bolts head coach, Jon Cooper, rolled out Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Kucherov on his first line, while completing his top-six forward group with Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos on the second line.

Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman comprised Tampa’s third line, while Pat Maroon, Tyler Johnson and Ross Colton carried the fourth line.

On defense, Cooper paired Victor Hedman with Jan Rutta as he’s done all postseason, while Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak served as his second pairing and Mikhail Sergachev was partnered with David Savard on the third defensive pair.

Richardson countered with Artturi Lehkonen, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher on his first line, while Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield rounded out Montréal’s top-six forward group.

Paul Byron, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Josh Anderson skated together on the third line, while Evans, Eric Staal and Corey Perry slotted in on the fourth line.

On defense, Ben Chiarot suited up alongside Shea Weber, Joel Edmundson was paired with Jeff Petry and Erik Gustafsson skated with Jon Merrill on the third defensive pair for the Habs.

Cernak (1) opened the series’ scoring with a shot pass redirection goal over Price’s glove to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead at 6:19 of the first period.

Palat (6) and Point (7) tallied the assists on Cernak’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in his 46th career postseason game.

Late in the period, Goodrow cross checked Gallagher and presented the Canadiens with the first power play of the series at 15:21 of the first period.

Montréal didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, as the Lightning remained in command on the scoreboard.

Tampa got a power play at 19:14 after Chiarot roughed up Kucherov, but the Bolts couldn’t muster anything on the power play despite the split ends of the advantage over the remaining time in the first period and a little more than the opening minute of the middle frame.

After one period, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 7-5.

Tampa also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), while Montréal led in giveaways (3-1), hits (26-19) and faceoff win percentage (56-44).

Both teams managed to have three blocked shots each and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Chiarot sent a shot attempt at the goal frame that deflected off of something and caught the iron to the right of Vasilevskiy’s leg pad, but the Bolts remained in command uninterrupted.

Moments later, Gallagher turned the puck over in Montréal’s attacking zone, leading to a rush for the Lightning heading back the other way, whereby Goodrow sent a shot that was blocked before Coleman pounced on the loose puck and threw a shot towards the net.

Coleman’s shot went through Merrill and caught a piece of Gourde (6) as he stood in front of the crease acting as a screen before the rubber biscuit had eyes and made its way through Price’s five-hole to give Tampa a, 2-0, lead.

Coleman (7) and Goodrow (2) notched the assists on the goal as the Bolts took a two-goal lead at 5:47 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Chiarot played a little pinball after Tampa turned it over and the Habs worked the puck around the attacking zone.

Chiarot (1) unloaded on a slap shot that deflected off of Cirelli, then McDonagh and slipped behind Vasilevskiy to cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1, on the scoreboard at 17:40.

Kotkaniemi (3) and Weber (4) were credited with the helpers on Chiarot’s first goal of the 2021 postseason for the Canadiens.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 19-14, in shots on goal, including a, 12-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Tampa also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (7-2), giveaways (7-3) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Montréal led in hits (44-41).

As there were no penalties called in the second period, both teams remained 0/1 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Kucherov (6) threw the puck into the slot early in the final frame and Chiarot smacked it out of the air with his glove, but somehow the puck managed to float over Price’s glove and under the bar to give the Lightning a, 3-1, lead at 2:00 of the third period.

Sergachev (3) had the only assist on Kucherov’s first goal of the night.

Minutes later, Staal and Cernak exchanged pleasantries after a stoppage and received roughing minors at 6:30, resulting in a pair of minutes of 4-on-4 action.

Midway through the third period, Kucherov (7) received a pass from Point on an attacking zone faceoff win and sent a laser of a shot past Price high on the glove side to extend Tampa’s lead to three-goals.

Point (8) had the only assist on Kucherov’s second goal of the game as the Bolts made it, 4-1, at 11:25 of the third period.

About a couple minutes later, Coleman took off Gallagher’s helmet after Price froze the puck in Montréal’s own zone and slammed Gallagher into the ice face first, resulting in a bit of a bloody gash on Gallagher’s forehead and yielding a power play to the Canadiens as a result.

Coleman cut a rut to the box for roughing at 13:42, but the Habs weren’t able to score on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly after killing off Coleman’s minor infraction, the Bolts went on the power play as Kotkaniemi retaliated with a high stick on Cernak at 15:51.

Edmundson joined Kotkaniemi in the box late in the resulting power play for roughing Gourde at 17:20, yielding a 5-on-3 advantage to the Lightning as a result, whereby Cooper sent out five forwards to make the Habs pay on the scoreboard.

About 90 seconds later, Tampa struck on the power play when Stamkos (8) blasted a one-timer from his usual spot in the faceoff dot to beat Price on the short side.

Kucherov (23) and Point (9) tallied the assists on Stamkos’ power-play goal and the Lightning extended their lead, 5-1, at 18:50 of the third period.

At the final horn, Tampa had taken a 1-0 series lead with a, 5-1, victory over Montréal in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

The Bolts finished Monday night’s effort leading in shots on goal, 27-19, including an, 8-5, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning also wrapped up Game 1 leading in blocked shots (15-5) and giveaways (9-3), while the Canadiens finished the night leading in hits (58-57).

Faceoff win% was split evenly, 50-50, while the Habs went 0/2 and the Bolts went 1/3 on the power play.

Tampa has a chance to take a 2-0 series lead and Montréal’s got a chance to even the series 1-1 on Wednesday night in Game 2 from Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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Habs victorious on the road in Game 5, can advance to the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday

The Montréal Canadiens matched a franchise record set in 1989, for the most road wins in a postseason with their seventh victory on an opponent’s ice in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs as they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights, 4-1, in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday.

Carey Price (11-5, 2.02 goals-against average, .933 save percentage in 16 games played) made 26 saves on 27 shots against as the Habs took a 3-2 series lead in the win.

Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury (9-7, 2.04 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 16 games played) stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the loss for the Golden Knights.

The Canadiens can reach the Stanley Cup Final with a win in front of their own fans on Thursday and join a short list of teams to have won both the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl in franchise history, as only the Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Chicago Blackhawks and New York Islanders have done so in National Hockey League history.

With no conferences this season due to the ongoing global pandemic restricting travel, the NHL decided to hold a Stanley Cup Semifinals round with the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Islanders series taking home the Prince of Wales Trophy, while the winner of Vegas and Montréal’s best-of-seven games series would take home the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl.

The former is usually reserved for the Eastern Conference champion, while the latter is usually presented to the Western Conference champion since a Conference Finals round became a thing in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in 1982.

Jake Evans remained out of the lineup for the Habs, while Chandler Stephenson returned to his usual spot on the first line for Vegas after missing the last three games due to an undisclosed injury.

Golden Knights General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon, remains isolated in Montréal after testing positive for COVID-19 ahead of Game 4 on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, likely won’t return to the series after testing positive prior to Game 3 unless the NHL’s protocols change between now and the conclusion of his scheduled isolation.

Despite his recent offensive contributions– including the game-winning goal in overtime in Game 3– Paul Byron opened the action with a cross checking infraction at 2:05 of the first period, yielding the game’s first power play to Vegas.

The Golden Knights, however, couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Almost midway through the opening frame, Josh Anderson fired a shot on Fleury that rebounded as Jesperi Kotkaniemi (5) crashed the net before he floated the puck into the top-right corner of the net with his backhand as the Vegas goaltender swung his paddle behind his back in desperation.

Anderson (1) and Byron (3) had the assists on Kotkaniemi’s goal on the rebound as the Canadiens pulled ahead, 1-0, at 8:45 of the first period.

Entering the first intermission, Montréal led, 1-0, on the scoreboard despite both teams managing to record six shots on goal each.

The Golden Knights held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), takeaways (5-4), giveaways (7-1) and faceoff win percentage (73-27), while the Habs led in hits (16-10) after one period.

Vegas had the only power play in the first period and went 0/1, while Montréal was still awaiting their first skater advantage of the night heading into the middle frame.

Alex Pietrangelo caught Kotkaniemi with a high stick, but an official review determined that it was an unintentional result of a follow through– thereby negating any infraction early in the middle period.

Minutes later, Eric Staal (2) emerged fresh off the bench on a line change for a catch and release snipe over Fleury’s glove after Nick Suzuki broke up Jonathan Marchessault’s play at the other end and generated a breakout for the Habs before connecting with Staal.

Suzuki (7) and Tyler Toffoli (8) tallied the assists on Staal’s goal as Montréal extended their lead to, 2-0, at 6:32 of the second period.

The Canadiens got their first power play of the night after Nicolas Roy caught Artturi Lehkonen with a high stick at 8:33.

The Habs made relatively quick work on the resulting skater advantage as Suzuki forced a turnover, which led to Corey Perry and Cole Caufield entering the attacking zone with an almost 2-on-1 advantage.

Perry made a no-look pass to Caufield (3) for the one-time goal as Fleury stood no chance with the burst of speed approaching and shortened reaction time.

Caufield’s power-play goal made it, 3-0, for the Canadiens as Perry (6) and Suzuki (8) notched the assists at 9:49 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, the Habs were back on the power play as Lehkonen drew another penalty as Shea Theodore cross checked the Canadiens skater at 10:42.

Montréal did not convert on the resulting power play, however.

Late in the period, Shea Weber hooked Stephenson at 17:10, but the Golden Knights couldn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Canadiens led, 3-0, on the scoreboard and, 17-15, in shots on goal, including an, 11-9, advantage in shots in the second period alone.

Montréal also held the advantage in hits (35-20), while Vegas led in takeaways (9-7), giveaways (10-2) and faceoff win% (57-43).

Both teams managed to have eight blocked shots each.

There were no penalties called in the final frame, as the Habs went 1/2 on the power play and the Golden Knights went 0/2 on the skater advantage on the night.

Roy won an attacking zone faceoff early in the final period as Max Pacioretty (5) fanned on his initial shot attempt before gathering his composure and sending the puck over Price’s blocker side.

Pacioretty’s goal put Vegas on the scoreboard, though they trailed, 3-1, at 4:09 of the third period, nonetheless.

Roy (5) had the only assist on Pacioretty’s first goal of the series.

With 2:53 remaining in the game, Fleury skated to the bench for an extra attacker as Peter DeBoer pulled his goaltender to rally the Golden Knights for a pair of goals, ideally.

Instead, while trying to keep the puck in the attacking zone, Vegas botched a play along the blue line whereby Toffoli was able to gather the loose puck and send it off the glass through the neutral zone.

As the puck made its way out of Montréal’s defensive zone, Suzuki (5) gathered the de facto indirect lead pass and raced to the vacant goal frame for an empty net goal to make it, 4-1, for the Canadiens.

Toffoli (9) had the only assist on Suzuki’s added insurance marker at 18:54 of the third period.

At the final horn, Montréal had won, 4-1, and taken a 3-2 series lead with the chance to advance to their first Stanley Cup Final since 1993.

Coincidentally, 1993, is also the last time the Canadiens won the Stanley Cup, defeating Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings in five games in the process.

The Golden Knights finished the night leading in shots on goal, 27-26, including a, 12-9, advantage in the third period alone.

The Canadiens finished Game 5 with the advantage in blocked shots (18-8) and hits (44-35), while Vegas exited their own building on Tuesday leading in giveaways (14-4) and faceoff win% (58-42).

With a win in Game 6 on Thursday night in front of their own fans at Bell Centre, Montréal can become the first Canadian team to appear in the Stanley Cup Final since the Vancouver Canucks represented Canada in 2011, before losing to the Boston Bruins in seven games (4-3).

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. ET on Thursday and viewers in the United States can tune to USA Network, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

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Golden Knights steal Game 4 on the road in OT, even series 2-2

“Experts” said gambling would never pay off, yet Peter DeBoer gave Robin Lehner his second start of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 4 at Bell Centre on Sunday night and the Vegas Golden Knights went on to win, 2-1, in overtime– tying their series with the Montréal Canadiens 2-2 in the process.

Nicolas Roy joined exclusive company as one of ten players born in Québec to score a game-winning overtime goal in the postseason against the Habs.

Roy became the first player to do so since Martin St. Louis gave the New York Rangers a Game 4 overtime victory against the Canadiens on home ice in the 2014 Eastern Conference Final.

Meanwhile, Lehner (1-1, 3.97 goals-against average, .877 save percentage in two games played) made 27 saves on 28 shots against in the win for Vegas.

Montréal goaltender, Carey Price (10-5, 2.09 goals-against average, .931 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 19 out of 21 shots faced in the loss.

The Canadiens were still without Jake Evans, while Lehner earned the start in net for the Golden Knights over Marc-Andre Fleury and Chandler Stephenson remained out.

Luke Richardson was once again in command behind the bench for Montréal while Dominique Ducharme remains in self-isolation since testing positive for COVID-19.

Ducharme is not the only member of this series missing time now as Vegas General Manager, Kelly McCrimmon, was spotted without a mask on Friday night during Game 3 and tested positive on Sunday ahead of Game 4.

McCrimmon will now be isolated a la Ducharme for the next couple of weeks at most.

There were no goals and no penalties in the opening frame as the two teams swapped a few chances here and there.

Heading into the first intermission, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Canadiens led in shots on goal, 11-4. Montréal also held an advantage in takeaways (2-1) and hits (17-10), while Vegas led in blocked shots (5-4) and giveaways (8-5).

The two teams split faceoff win percentage, 50-50, and each club had yet to see time on the skater advantage after one period.

Late in the middle frame Tomas Nosek and Shea Weber exchanged pleasantries and became entangled, yielding unsportsmanlike conduct minors at 14:45 of the second period.

Just as the two teams were set to resume 5-on-5 action after almost a pair of minutes at 4-on-4, Nick Suzuki hooked Alec Martinez and presented Vegas with a couple seconds of a 4-on-3 advantage at 16:44.

The Golden Knights couldn’t convert on the resulting abbreviated 5-on-4 power play as the Habs killed off their 26th consecutive infraction this postseason.

Shortly after Vegas’ power play expired, Montréal capitalized on the vulnerable minute after special teams play as Suzuki sent Paul Byron (2) into the attacking zone on a breakaway before No. 41 in bleu, blanc et rouge elevated the puck over Lehner to give the Canadiens a, 1-0, lead at 18:55 of the second period.

Suzuki (6) had the only assist on Byron’s tally after the Golden Knights nearly scored at the other end of the rink after Alex Pietrangelo rang the iron and Mark Stone fanned on a rebound.

As the two teams were getting ready for the second intermission, Martinez interfered with Josh Anderson and cut a rut to the penalty box at 19:38, resulting in a split power play for Montréal between the tail end of the second period and the opening minute of the final frame of regulation.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Canadiens led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, as well as, 20-12, in shots on goal– including a, 9-8, advantage in the second period alone.

Montréal led in blocked shots (10-9), takeaways (4-2) and hits (30-18) after two periods, while Vegas led in giveaways (11-10) and faceoff win% (57-43).

As there were no penalties called in the remainder of the game, both teams finished 0/1 on the power play on Sunday night.

Midway through the final frame of regulation, Brayden McNabb (1) received a pass from William Karlsson and beat Price with a one-timer between Price’s body and glove on the short side to tie the game, 1-1, at 10:37 of the third period.

Karlsson (10) and Shea Theodore (8) had the only assists on McNabb’s goal as the two teams continued to trade chances with the Golden Knights surging in momentum.

After 60 minutes, Vegas and Montréal were tied, 1-1, despite the Canadiens leading in shots on goal, 28-18, including an, 8-6, advantage in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights led in hits (40-24) and faceoff win% (57-43), while the Habs dominated in blockes shots (19-16), takeaways (6-4), giveaways (18-15) and hits (40-24).

It didn’t take long in overtime for Roy (4) to end the game with a Vegas victory after Max Pacioretty wrapped around the net, spun, then flung a shot on goal that rebounded to Roy, who had a couple of chances before roofing the puck top-shelf while Price flailed in the crease while loosing his stick.

Pacioretty (6) and Alex Tuch (5) had the assists on Roy’s game-winning goal at 1:18 of the overtime period as the Golden Knights stole a, 2-1, win on the road in Game 4 and tied the series 2-2.

Montréal finished the night leading in shots on goal, 28-21, despite trailing Vegas, 3-0, in shots in the extra frame alone.

The Habs finished the night leading in blocked shots (19-16), giveaways (19-15) and hits (40-24), while the Golden Knights exited the building with the advantage in faceoff win% (56-44).

The Canadiens fell to 4-1 in overtime this postseason, while Vegas improved to 2-3 past regulation in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With the series even at two games apiece heading into Game 5 back in Las Vegas at T-Mobile Arena on Tuesday night, Vegas and Montréal’s best-of-seven series is virtually a de facto best-of-three games.

Puck drop is set for a little after 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday as the Golden Knights host the Canadiens and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose between SN or TVAS.

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Habs steal Game 3 victory due to Fleury’s error

Josh Anderson scored a pair of goals to tie, then win Game 3 in overtime, 3-2, for the Montréal Canadiens over the Vegas Golden Knights in front of 3,500 fans at Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec on Friday night as the Habs took a 2-1 series lead.

Carey Price (10-4, 2.10 goals-against average, .932 save percentage in 14 games played) made 43 saves on 45 shots against in the win for the Canadiens.

Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Fleury (9-6, 1.97 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 24 out of 27 shots faced in the loss for the Golden Knights.

Tomas Nosek took part in the pregame warmup and returned to Vegas’ lineup for the first time since Game 2 against the Minnesota Wild in the First Round, while Chandler Stephenson remained out of the lineup.

Meanwhile, Montréal was without their head coach, Dominique Ducharme, after he tested positive for COVID-19 and was forced to self-isolate, where he may remain for up to 10 days.

Luke Richardson served as the head coach for the Habs, while Alex Burrows and Sean Burke retained their role as assistants on Friday night.

Neither team found their way onto the scoreboard in the opening frame as both clubs traded power play opportunities.

First, Jesperi Kotkaniemi hooked Alec Martinez and presented the Golden Knights with the first skater advantage at 6:52 of the first period, but Vegas couldn’t convert on the resulting power play.

The Canadiens struggled on their first power play of the night when Keegan Kolesar cut a rut to the box for interference at 9:26 of the first period.

Late in the opening frame, Joel Armia boarded Brayden McNabb and was assessed an infraction at 17:54, but the Golden Knights couldn’t muster anything on the advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, Vegas and Montréal were tied, 0-0, on the scoreboard, despite the Golden Knights holding a, 17-3, advantage in shots on goal in the first period alone.

The Habs led in blocked shots (6-2), giveaways (6-0), hits (15-14) and faceoff win percentage (58-42), while both teams managed to have one takeaway each after one period of action.

Vegas was 0/2 and Montréal was 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Shea Weber interfered with McNabb 24 seconds into the second period, but the Golden Knights couldn’t convert on the ensuing power play.

They would, however, capitalize within the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Nicolas Roy (3) beat Price over the glove from point blank on a turnover by Eric Staal after Staal gave the puck right to Roy from the trapezoid.

Roy’s unassisted effort made it, 1-0, Vegas at 3:16 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, however, the Canadiens answered back in a hurry as Cole Caufield (2) struck on a breakaway– beating Fleury on the glove side after Nick Suzuki set up Caufield for the goal.

Suzuki (5) had the only assist as Montréal tied it, 1-1, at 3:54.

Midway through the second period, Kotkaniemi hooked Max Pacioretty and presented the Golden Knights with another power play at 14:31, but Vegas couldn’t convert on the resulting advantage.

Neither could the Habs when Nosek tripped Jeff Petry at 19:42.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Golden Knights and Canadiens were tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard, despite Vegas holding a, 30-8, advantage in shots on goal, including a, 13-5, advantage in the second period alone.

Montréal continued to dominated in blocked shots (15-9), giveaways (17-3) and hits (33-29), while Vegas led in takeaways (3-2) and faceoff win% (56-44).

As there were no more penalties called for the rest of the night, the Golden Knights went 0/4 on the power play, while the Canadiens went 0/2 on the skater advantage on Friday.

Alex Pietrangelo (4) put Vegas ahead of the Habs, 2-1, with a shot under Price’s blocker side at 2:22 of the third period as Pacioretty (5) and Nosek (1) tabbed the assists.

Once more, however, the Golden Knights couldn’t extend their lead, nor could they hold onto the lead as Fleury mishandled a puck and blipped it to Anderson (2) for an unassisted goal to tie the game, 2-2, at 18:05 of the final frame.

Fleury’s costly error sent the game to overtime as the teams were tied, 2-2, after regulation, despite Vegas leading in shots on goal, 40-21.

Montréal actually held the advantage in shots on net in the third period alone, 13-10, while the Habs also dominated in blocked shots (17-16), giveaways (24-8) and hits (45-31).

The Golden Knights led in faceoff win% (51-49), while both teams managed to have four takeaways each.

Though Vegas dominated possession for most of the night, Montréal hit another gear in the overtime period as they led rush after rush into the attacking zone in the extra frame.

Eventually, Kotkaniemi sent an aerial pass to Anderson, who gathered the puck out of the air with his stick and flipped it along to Paul Byron for a give-and-go before Anderson (3) wrapped the rubber biscuit around Fleury while the Golden Knights goaltender dove in desperation.

Montréal had won, 3-2, in overtime thanks to Anderson’s second goal of the night, while Byron (2) and Kotkaniemi (2) tallied the assists on the game-winning goal at 12:53 of the extra frame.

With the win in Game 3, the Canadiens took a 2-1 series lead in front of their fans, while Vegas finished the night leading in shots on goal, 45-27.

The Habs wrapped up Friday night’s action leading in giveaways (25-15) and hits (52-36), while the Golden Knights led in blocked shots (21-20) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Vegas fell to 1-3 in overtime this postseason, while Montréal improved to 4-0 past regulation in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Game 4 is back at Bell Centre in Montréal on Sunday night with a chance for the Canadiens to take a commanding 3-1 series lead or for the Golden Knights to even things up 2-2 heading back out west for Game 5.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. ET on Sunday and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for game coverage.

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Canadiens tie series 1-1 in, 3-2, win on the road

Paul Byron scored the game-winning goal late in the second period before Alex Pietrangelo tried his best to will the home team back into the fray with a pair of goals of his own as the Montréal Canadiens stole Game 2 from the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, on the road at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.

Carey Price (9-4, 2.14 goals-against average, .930 save percentage in 13 games played) made 29 saves on 31 shots against in the win for the Canadiens as Montréal evened the series 1-1.

Golden Knights goaltender, Marc-Andre Fleury (9-5, 1.93 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 14 games played), stopped 20 out of 23 shots faced in the loss.

Jeff Petry and Jon Merrill returned to action for the Habs on their blue line, while Jake Evans remained out of the lineup due to injury.

Vegas forward, Nicolas Roy, was promoted to center Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, while Chandler Stephenson was out due to injury.

Joel Armia (5) pounced on a loose puck and buried it on the short side early in the opening frame while Fleury dove across the crease and came up a little bit short.

Joel Edmundson (4) and Corey Perry (5) tallied the assists on Armia’s goal as the Canadiens jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 6:12 of the first period.

A few minutes later, Petry cut a rut to the penalty box after he tripped up Reilly Smith– presenting the Golden Knights with a power play at 9:51 of the first period in the process.

Vegas did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Late in the opening frame, Montréal won an attacking zone faceoff back to the point where Petry worked the puck up to winger, Cole Caufield, as Caufield found Tyler Toffoli (5) for an off-speed one-timer goal.

Caufield (5) and Petry (4) had the assists as the Habs extended their lead to two-goals at 16:30.

Entering the first intermission the Canadiens led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-4, in shots on goal.

Montréal also held the advantage in hits (24-13) and faceoff win percentage (55-45), while Vegas led in takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (5-2).

Both teams managed to have eight blocked shots each, while only the Golden Knights had seen time on the skater advantage and were 0/1 after one period.

Armia was sent to the box with a holding infraction to kick things off with a Vegas power play at 5:55 of the second period.

The Golden Knights did not convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Late in the period, Jesperi Kotkaniemi chipped the puck off the boards and through the neutral zone as Josh Anderson tied up Nick Holden at the blue line while the puck trickled past and Byron entered the attacking zone with a breakaway at hand.

Byron (2) scored the eventual game-winning goal as a result and gave Montréal a, 3-0, lead at 17:45 of the second period as Kotkaniemi (1) and Edmundson (5) were credited with the helpers.

A minute later, Pietrangelo (2) sent a wrist shot through heavy traffic past Price as the Canadiens goaltender never saw the puck off of a faceoff win in the attacking zone for the Golden Knights.

Keegan Kolesar (3) had the only assist on Pietrangelo’s first goal of the night as Vegas cut Montréal’s lead to, 3-1, at 18:46 of the second period.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Habs led, 3-1, on the scorebaord and, 16-14, in shots on goal, despite trailing the Golden Knights, 10-4, in shots on goal in the second period alone.

The Canadiens held the advantage in blocked shots (15-14), hits (41-32) and faceoff win% (53-48), while Vegas led in takeaways (6-2) and giveaways (6-3).

As there were no penalties called in the final frame, the Golden Knights finished 0/2 on the power play for the night, while Montréal didn’t even see any time on the skater advantage on Wednesday.

Late in the final frame, Pietrangelo (3) sent the puck through Petry’s legs and under Price’s glove on another goal off an attacking zone faceoff win for the Golden Knights as Vegas cut Montréal’s lead to one-goal.

Jonathan Marchessault (3) and William Karlsson (9) notched the assists on Pietrangelo’s second goal of the night as the Golden Knights trailed, 3-2, at 14:46 of the third period.

Peter DeBoer pulled Fleury for an extra attacker with 1:35 remaining, but it was ultimately to no avail as the final horn sounded and the Canadiens stole Game 2 on the road by a score of, 3-2.

This, after Karlsson delivered a swift cross check that let to Edmundson smashing the boards awkwardly and taking his time to get back up and off the ice on his own after a stoppage with 50.3 seconds remaining.

There was no penalty called and– after Vegas used their timeout– time kept ticking down until the Habs had successfully tied the series 1-1.

The Canadiens won, 3-2, but finished the night trailing in shots on goal, 31-23, as Vegas led, 17-7, in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights also held the advantage in giveaways (10-5), while Montréal exited T-Mobile Arena with the lead in blocked shots (26-18), hits (53-45) and faceoff win% (58-42).

As a result of the victory, Price (9-4) earned his ninth win of the 2021 postseason– the most by a Canadiens goaltender in a postseason since Jaroslav Halak (9-9) had nine victories in the 2010 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The series shifts to Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec on Friday night for Game 3.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on USA Network, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS as the Canadiens and Golden Knights battle to take a 2-1 series lead.

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Golden Knights rout Canadiens, 4-1, in Game 1 of Semifinals

For the second time in their four years of existence, the Vegas Golden Knights are three wins away from another Stanley Cup Final appearance after defeating the Montréal Canadiens, 4-1, in Game 1 of their Semifinals matchup Monday night at T-Mobile Arena.

Alec Martinez is no stranger to scoring game-winning goals in the postseason as the Golden Knights defender notched the eventual game-winning goal early in the second period to the pleasure of the home crowd as Marc-Andre Fleury (9-4, 1.84 goals-against average, .927 save percentage in 13 games played) made 28 saves on 29 shots against in the win.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (8-4, 2.15 goals-against average, .929 save percentage in 12 games played), stopped 26 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

On Jan. 18, 2020, less than two months before the ongoing global pandemic began, the Habs beat Vegas, 5-4, in a shootout victory at Bell Centre in Montréal, Québec across the United States-Canadian border.

That was the last time the two clubs met each other before kicking off their best-of-seven series on Monday night in the first U.S.-based team vs. Canadian-based team matchup of the league’s 2020-21 calendar.

Jeff Petry, Jake Evans and Jon Merrill were not available for Montréal in Game 1 as the trio of skaters remain out of the lineup due to injury.

Early in the opening frame, Jonathan Marchessault caught Alexander Romanov with a high stick and presented the game’s first power play to the Canadiens as a result at 2:38 of the first period.

Montréal was not successful on the ensuing skater advantage.

Almost midway through the first period, the Habs iced the puck and proceeded to lose a faceoff in their own zone, whereby Vegas worked the puck back to Brayden McNabb for the “D-to-D” pass along the point.

Shea Theodore (1) unloaded on a slap shot that beat Price on the blocker side while the Canadiens goaltender never saw the rubber biscuit speed past him as there was heavy net front traffic limiting his view from Montréal’s crease.

McNabb (3) and Chandler Stephenson (6) tallied the assists on Theodore’s first goal of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs and the Golden Knights took a, 1-0, lead at 9:15 of the first period as a result.

Phillip Danault hooked Alex Tuch late in the period and presented Vegas with the night’s first power play at 18:20, but the Golden Knights weren’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage.

Heading into the first intermission, Vegas led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing Montréal in shots on goal, 12-8.

The Canadiens led in blocked shots (7-4) and faceoff win percentage (56-44), while the Golden Knights led in giveaways (6-1) and hits (23-21).

Both teams managed to have two takeaways each and were 0/1 on the power play after one period.

Seven seconds into the second period, Ben Chiarot cut a rut to the penalty box for sending an errant puck over the glass– yielding an automatic delay of game infraction and presenting Vegas with another power play.

Though the Golden Knights didn’t convert on the skater advantage, they were successful in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as Theodore setup Martinez (3) with a pump fake pass for the one-timer goal from Martinez’s office at the dot while Price overcommitted on Theodore’s look– thereby scoring on the Habs netminder on what was rendered as a de facto empty net.

Theodore (7) and Reilly Smith (6) tallied the assists on the goal as Vegas pulled ahead, 2-0, at 2:18 of the second period.

Midway through the middle frame, Joel Edmundson caught Marchessault with a slash at 5:04, but the Golden Knight’s resulting power play was short lived as Theodore tripped up Paul Byron at 5:20.

After a span of 1:45 at 4-on-4 action, the Canadiens wound up with an abbreviated power play, but couldn’t convert on the short skater advantage.

Moments later, Brett Kulak tripped up Stephenson at 8:20, but Vegas was not successful on the ensuing power play.

A few minutes after Kulak’s trip to the penalty box, Montréal went on the power play as William Carrier took his turn in the sin bin for roughing at 11:46.

The Habs worked quick on the ensuing skater advantage as Corey Perry passed the puck to Tyler Toffoli for a shot that generated a rebound right to Cole Caufield (1) as the young Canadiens forward pounced on the loose puck and buried it in the twine for his first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal.

Toffoli (7) and Perry (4) had the assists on Caufield’s power-play goal as Montréal cut Vegas’ lead in half, 2-1, at 12:05 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, however, the Golden Knights responded on the scoreboard as Mattias Janmark (4) redirected a puck from the doorstep that had already deflected off of Canadien forward, Josh Anderson, to make it, 3-1, for Vegas at 12:58.

Tuch (4) and Zach Whitecloud (3) notched the assists on Janmark’s goal 53 seconds after the Habs ruined Fleury’s bid for a shutout.

The Golden Knights, meanwhile, continued to be successful at converting attacking zone faceoff wins into effective offensive markings on the scoreboard.

Through 40 minutes of play, Vegas led, 3-1, on the scoreboard and pulled ahead of Montréal in shots on goal, 21-17, thanks to a, 13-5, advantage in the second period alone.

The Habs, however, continued to dominated in blocked shots (12-8), takeaways (8-7), hits (39-30) and faceoff win% (56-44), while the Golden Knights led in giveaways (9-4).

Montréal was 1/3 on the power play, while Vegas was 0/4 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame, where no penalties were called in the last 20 minutes of action.

Smith sent a pass to Nick Holden (2) through the high slot for a catch and release goal to give Vegas a three-goal lead, 4-1, at 10:06 of the third period.

Smith (7) and William Karlsson (8) tallied the assists as the Golden Knights defended their crease for the rest of the night and protected their lead even after Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, pulled Price for an extra attacker with about 4:35 remaining in regulation.

Price didn’t remain out of the net for long, however, as he was returned to the crease with about 35 seconds left on the clock, seeing as the Habs were still trailing by a few goals and with nothing left to lose except for pride, if Vegas had found a way to score one more goal on the evening.

At the final horn, the Golden Knights had won, 4-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead as a result.

Vegas finished Monday’s effort leading in shots on goal, 30-29, despite trailing Montréal, 12-9, in the third period alone.

The Golden Knights wound up with the final advantage in blocked shots (16-15) and giveaways (10-5), while the Canadiens exited the building leading in hits (52-44) and faceoff win% (56-44).

The Habs finished 1/3 on the skater advantage, while Vegas went 0/4 on the power play in Game 1.

The Golden Knights host the Canadiens for Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Wednesday night with a 1-0 series lead.

Puck drop is expected a little after 9 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can tune to NBCSN for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for coverage.