Golden Knights, defensemen handle Canadiens in Game 1
Carey Price against Marc-Andre Fleury was already a heck of a storyline.
In Game 1, the narrative shifted to the Golden Knights defensemen. In their 4-1 win to take a 1-0 series lead on the Canadiens, six of their 12 points came from defensemen. They became the first team this postseason to get three goals from their defensemen in a single game.
It was the first time in eight games the Canadiens didn’t score the first goal. It was also the first time a team in the North Division played anyone outside of it, and the results were telling; the Canadiens could come back on the Maple Leafs and sweep the Jets, but the Golden Knights were tested against teams like Colorado.
It’s only one game, and the Canadiens have come back in a series before, but this is different than any situation they’ve played all season, and it shows.
Montreal’s best chances came early, where Fleury shut them down before Vegas finally went ahead 1-0 9:15 into the first period. The Canadiens outshot them 12-8 in that frame; but after that initial push, the Golden Knights played the way they have their past five games.
Two Golden Knights defensemen, Shea Theodore and Alec Martinez, opened the scoring to make it 2-0 Golden Knights. Theodore earned a slick assist on Martinez’s goal to boot.
Canadiens rookie Cole Caufield scored his first playoff goal to cut the lead in half, but Mattias Janmark, who last scored with a hat trick against the Wild, put the Golden Knights back ahead with an insurance tally 53 seconds later.
Nick Holden continued his torrid pace after a strong Colorado series with a goal from the circle to make it a 4-1 lead off a pass from Reilly Smith in the third period.
The Golden Knights pulled away in the second where they led Montreal in scoring chances 11-0. They also led 7-0 in high danger chances. Aside from the Caufield goal, the Canadiens offense barely registered a pulse against the Golden Knights.
Price wasn’t bad, but had no chance on several of the goals. The Golden Knights finished with 30 shots and regularly exploited the Canadiens defense, missing Jeff Petry.
Alex Pietrangelo finished as the only Golden Knights defenseman without a point. A lot of the Vegas success this postseason has come from them finding ways to generate offense from the blue line. Holden has played out of his mind since the Second Round, and Theordore is looking like a Norris candidate.
The Golden Knights have a lot of weapons, and one of their best is the ability to create goals from all areas. If they continue to get production from the defense, that’s an even tougher element for the Canadiens.
Vegas went from beating a Stanley Cup favorite in the Avalanche last round to the lowest-seeded team to make it to the postseason. No doubt the Canadiens run has been remarkable, but after facing Colorado, the Golden Knights likely have the best path to the Stanley Cup from here.
Montreal may be in over its head already in a series like this. For all the talk of the North Division not being on par with the others, Game 1 was a good thesis statement.