NHL Friday NBC Sports Network Preview: Vegas Golden Knights at the Montreal Canadiens.
Montreal evened their semifinals series at 1-1 with a 3-2 victory in Las Vegas on Wednesday.
Joel Armia opened the scoring with a goal 6:12 minutes into the first period to give the Canadiens the lead. Tyler Toffoli added a goal at 16:30 of the first period. Paul Byron made it a 3-0 score at 17:45 of the second period. Alex Pietrangelo got the Golden Knights on the board with his goal a minute later. Pietrangelo added a second goal at 14:46 of the third period, but Vegas could not score a game-tying goal in the final five minutes.
The Canadiens once again dominated the play in the first 20 minutes. They outshot the Knights, 12-4, in getting the two-goal lead. In Game 1, Montreal outshot Vegas by a 12-8 margin with a 7-1 edge in high-danger chances, yet they still were behind, 1-0, at the end of the period. The Canadiens have a 9-1 record in the postseason when scoring first.
Carey Price made 29 saves in the victory. He has a 9-4 record in the playoffs with a 2.14 goals-against-average and a .930 save percentage.
Tyler Toffoli leads the team with five goals, seven assists, and 12 points in the postseason. Nick Suzuki has scored four goals while adding four assists. Eric Staal, Joel Armia has eight points apiece from five goals and three assists.
Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 20 of the 23 shots. He has a 9-5 record in the postseason with a 1.92 goals-against-average and a .923 save percentage.
Second-line center William Karlsson leads the team with 13 points in the playoffs from four goals and nine assists. Second-line right wing Reilly Smith has nine points from two goals and seven assists. Second-line left wing Jonathan Marchessault leads the Knights with six playoff goals. Pietrangelo is second on the team with 10 points from three goals and seven assists. The Vegas blue-line has scored five of their six goals in this series. In their last six games, the Knights' defense has contributed seven goals and 15 assists.
Top-line center Chandler Stephenson was a surprise scratch for Vegas with an upper-body injury on Wednesday. He did not participate in today’s morning skate, with some reports indicating he did not make the trip to Montreal and is doubtful to play in Game 4. Center Tomas Nosek expects to be available for the first time in the postseason.
These circumstances are the third-straight series in which Montreal has played a team that lost their top-line center after Game 1. John Tavares got injured for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Winnipeg Jets’ Mark Schiefele got suspended for his hit on Jake Evans.
Evans remains questionable to return to the ice as he continues to go through the concussion protocol. Left wing Tomas Tatar is out indefinitely. Defensemen Jeff Petry and Jon Merrill returned to action in Game 2. Petry played 20:47 minutes and registered an assist. Merrill played for almost 13 minutes.
Canadiens’ head coach Dominique Ducharme was sent home earlier today after irregularities from his COVID tests. He received his second vaccination shot on June 9th. Further testing this afternoon may clear him to be on the bench tonight. Colorado head coach Jared Bednar went through a similar circumstance in Game 6 in the West Division finals. After missing the morning skate, he got cleared to coach the team that night.
Assistant head coach Alex Burroughs may be assigned the in-game coaching duties if Ducharme does not get cleared. Burroughs was promoted to the Canadiens on February 24th after being an assistant coach in the AHL previously this season.
Montreal returns home to the Bell Centre with eight wins in their last nine games. The Golden Knights had their five-game winning streak end with the loss on Wednesday.
BookMaker lists Vegas as a -165 money line road favorite with the total set at 5.
Computer prediction: Vegas Golden Knights 2 Montreal Canadiens 1