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As they did in Game 1, the Canadiens had a good start versus the Golden Knights. This time, Montreal kept up the pressure beyond just the first round of shifts, and earned themselves a lead.
An edge on the scoreboard is always a good thing to have after the first period, especially with how Montreal has played in the middle frame this post-season. It was obvious that they were just trying to run the clock to zero in the second as the Golden Knights attacked, but even so they managed to extend the lead to three goals with an important shift from the third line. Jesperi Kotkaniemi recorded his first ever NHL playoff assist to go with his eight goals when Paul Byron scored another breakaway tally. The three-goal lead didn’t last long, but that goal proved critical when the Canadiens surrendered a second one late in the third before holding on for a 3-2 win.
The series is now tied at a game apiece, and the Canadiens hold home-ice advantage in what becomes a best-of-five, with Game 3 set to go in front of a crowd of 3,500 at the Bell Centre.
2021 Stanley Cup Semifinals Game 3
Montreal Canadiens @ Vegas Golden Knights
Series tied 1-1
How to watch
Start time: 8:00 PM EDT / 5:00 PM PDT
In Canada: CBC, Sportsnet (English), TVA Sports (French)
In the U.S.: USA
As has been the case all post-season long, it was a team effort that earned Montreal’s success on Wednesday. Three different lines had goals, started off by the Retirement Line’s youngest resident, Joel Armia, and then a short pass from Cole Caufield to Tyler Toffoli for goal number two, with both players extending their point streaks (to four and eight games, respectively) on the play.
The top line didn’t get on the scoreboard, but what they did do was stay on the offensive on their shifts, and both Artturi Lehkonen and Brendan Gallagher finished atop the list for scoring-chances-for percentage at above 70%. With the majority of their shifts starting the defensive zone versus Vegas’s top six and top pair — especially for Phillip Danault who was used as a specialist for that exact purpose — that was a critical performance.
If not for an ill-advised icing by Joel Edmundson with a dead-tired Nick Suzuki on the ice, we could have been talking about that defensive lockdown from the skaters more than Carey Price allowing his team to just hang on to the lead following a late-period flurry from the Golden Knights, but the series record remains the same, and the Canadiens now have an effective strategy versus a team that made them look a bit outmatched in the opening game.
With Dominique Ducharme now in control of the matchups, things should be a bit easier at home. You’d have to think there’s a chance that Montreal will get some power plays tonight, and a red-hot Caufield has been left salivating for a several days since getting his first taste of playoff goal-scoring. A replicated five-on-five showing gives Montreal a very good chance of winning the game, and the special teams going in their favour would boost their odds even further of taking a 2-1 lead.