The Vegas Golden Knights opened their Stanley Cup semi-final series with a convincing win over the Montreal Canadiens. What started as a defensive battle quickly turned into a tremendous display of offense from the West Division champions. Their 4-1 win gives Vegas their fifth straight win in the playoffs, after an amazing series comeback against Colorado.
In the tail end of one of the most interesting seasons in NHL history, fans are finally being treated to inter-divisional play. More importantly, American and Canadian teams are now able to play each other, thanks to the Montreal Canadiens.
Before Game 1 of this series, the Canadiens had not played a game on American ice since March 7, 2020. Their last game with a crowd above 2,500 people was three days later, so Montreal certainly needed to get adjusted to the atmosphere. The last time these two teams met was all the way back in January 2020, and the first few minutes of the game showed that both teams needed to feel each other out before getting too aggressive.
Vegas’ Defensemen Shine
The Golden Knights’ blueliners provided the support that Marc-Andre Fleury needed to get the job done, as well as providing an offensive boost for their forwards. Defensemen scored three of the four goals for Vegas and combined for a total of six points.
One of the league’s best, Shea Theodore, opened the scoring with a blast from the point in the first period. A quick face-off play set him up for a sweet one-time shot from the point that blew right by Carey Price. The Vegas defense added on to their lead with Alec Martinez’s early second-period goal. Mattias Janmark was the only forward to score, adding the third goal in the second period. Another defenseman, Nick Holden, added the insurance marker just over halfway in the third period.
Of course, the Golden Knight’s defense cannot be mentioned without giving a nod to Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury had yet another phenomenal performance, only allowing one goal on 29 shots. Without him between the posts, this game could have been a lot closer than it was. Thanks to Fleury’s rapid reflexes and high hockey IQ, Vegas was able to seal the first game of the series.
Promising Signs from Montreal
The Canadiens did not get what they wanted out of this game, but it was certainly not all bad. One of the top young talents entering the league, Cole Caufield, notched his first career playoff goal on the powerplay and looked really comfortable on the ice when he got his chances. Playing in an intense playoff atmosphere, especially on the road, is not easy to do for such a young player.
At times their forecheck was way too much for Vegas to handle, but they could not bury their opportunities. Josh Anderson, Brendan Gallagher, and Tyler Toffoli found plenty of chances that they were unable to get past Fleury. They will look to capitalize on those chances for the remainder of the series.
Game 2 will be Wednesday, June 16 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Ben’s Three Stars:
- Shea Theodore, VGK (1 goal, 1 ast)
- Marc-Andre Fleury, VGK (W, 28 sv)
- Alec Martinez, VGK (GWG, 23:52 TOI)