NHL Thursday NBC Sports Network Preview: Vegas Golden Knights at the Montreal Canadiens.
The Canadiens took a 3-2 lead in their NHL semifinals series with the Golden Knights in Game 5 with a 4-1 victory in Las Vegas on Tuesday. They return home to the Bell Arena with the opportunity to close out the series and advance to the Stanley Cup finals.
Montreal opened the scoring at the 8:45 minute mark of the first period with a goal from Jesperi Kotkaniemi. Eric Staal extended the lead to 2-0 at 6:32 in the second period. Cole Caufield made the score 3-0 just over three minutes later with a power-play goal at 9:49. Max Pacioretty got Vegas on the board at 4:09 of the third period. Nick Suzuki scored an empty netter at 18:54 of the period for the final score of the game.
Carey Price made 26 saves in the win. The 33-year-old has an 11-5 record in this postseason with a 2.02 goals-against-average and a .933 save percentage.
Tyler Toffoli leads the team with 14 points coming from five goals and nine assists in the postseason. Suzuki has scored five goals while adding eight assists. Corey Perry has three goals and six assists.
The scoring slump of the Vegas forwards continued on Tuesday. Pacioretty’s goal was his third point in the series, but the Knights have not scored more than two goals in four straight games. Mark Stone has yet to register a point against the Canadiens. The Selke finalist has scored only one goal in his last 13 games. Alex Tuch has one goal in his last 14 games. Reilly Smith is scoreless in 15 games.
The Vegas blue-line has picked up the slack by scoring eight of the eleven goals in this series. In their last nine games, the Knights' defense has contributed nine goals and 16 assists.
Second-line center William Karlsson leads the team with 14 points in the playoffs from four goals and ten assists. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has 11 points from four goals and seven assists. Pacioretty has added four goals and seven assists.
Golden Knights’ head coach Peter DeBoer has a difficult decision regarding his starting goaltender tonight after turning back to Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 5. Fleury stopped 22 of the 25 shots he faced. He has a 9-7 record in the playoffs with a 2.04 goals-against-average and a .918 save percentage. DeBoer gave Robin Lehner the start in Game 4, claiming that Fleury seemed fatigued after his costly late-game mistake in Game 3. The 36-year-old has played the most minutes between the pipes of any goaltender in the postseason. Lehner rewarded his coach’s faith with 27 saves, including a one-on-one breakaway from Caufield that would have given Montreal a perhaps insurmountable 2-0 lead midway through the third period.
DeBoer has yet to announce who he will choose to be his goaltender for Game 6. Turning back to Lehner may prove irresistible since he won Game 4 in Montreal, 2-1. Lehner has a 3.97 goals-against-average and a .877 save percentage in his two playoff appearances that include a disastrous Game 1 start in Colorado in the West Division finals. During the regular season, Lehner had a 2.27 goals-against-average and a .913 save percentage. As the primary goaltender in last year's playoffs, he has a 1.99 goals-against-average and a .917 save percentage, with four shutouts in 16 starts. Fleury has a 1.97 goals-against-average and a .921 save percentage in 15 postseason starts this year.
Chandler Stephenson returned to the ice for the Knights in Game 5 after missing the previous three games with an upper-body injury.
Canadiens’ left wing Tomas Tatar is still questionable with the injury that has kept him out of action. Jake Evans is listed as questionable to return to the ice as he continues to go through the concussion protocol.
Canadiens’ head coach Dominique Ducharme remains in COVID quarantine for the rest of this series after testing positive last week. Luke Richardson has the head coach bench duties in his absence. Golden Knights’ general manager Kelly McCrimmon has also tested positive for COVID and remains in quarantine in Canada.
BetAnySports lists Vegas as a -140 money line road favorite with the total set at 5.
Computer prediction: Golden Knights 4 Canadiens 1