The positive elements from Monday’s loss to the Vegas Golden Knights give the Montreal Canadiens a sense of hope heading into Wednesday’s Game 2 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series in Las Vegas.
As disappointing as the 4-1 loss in Game 1 was for the Canadiens, they can look at how well they played through most of the opening period before a trio of consecutive penalties killed all of their rhythm.
“They got momentum rolling and felt good after they got their game going,” Montreal defenseman Ben Chiarot said. “I don’t know if it was a combination of us getting off our game and them getting onto theirs but it’s something we’ll make adjustments for and be ready for.”
After Wednesday’s clash, the series will shift to Montreal for the third and fourth games.
The Canadiens, who are heavy underdogs in the series, saw their seven-game winning streak snapped, but don’t believe they are that far away from reeling in a victory in Game 2.
“The biggest thing is the response,” veteran forward Eric Staal said. “It wasn’t the result we want and in a seven-game series, it’s always about the next game, the next opportunity and the next chance. We’ve been resilient in the playoffs and the opportunity is there for us.
“We’ll be ready to go. We’ll be excited for the challenge.”
Montreal may receive a much-needed roster boost. Defensemen Jeff Petry and Jon Merrill and forward Jake Evans practiced on Tuesday without non-contact jerseys and may be ready to return from injury.
“It’s too early right now to talk about (Wednesday’s) lineup,” coach Dominique Ducharme said. “We’ll evaluate everyone and see where they’re at and see if we can make changes.”
Pulling even in the series won’t be an easy task for the Canadiens, though. The Golden Knights, making their third semifinal appearance in their fourth season of existence, boast great forward depth, a strong defensive corps and top-notch goaltending from veteran Marc-Andre Fleury, who was a factor in the first period.
That recipe has them riding a five-game winning streak of their own, but they know full well Monday’s victory wasn’t an example of their best.
“They came out strong. We didn’t play well in the first 10-15 minutes,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “Flower (Fleury) made a couple of big saves to ease the tension for us.”
The other elements to the Vegas victory were no surprise. One was scoring first, which snapped Montreal’s seven-game streak of opening the scoring.
“We talked in our pre-scout meetings that they would be uncomfortable in their structure playing from behind,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “No one made them play from behind for a while. The goal was huge and at the right time with how we were playing.”
The other was receiving contributions from their depth, especially with three defensemen scoring in the game. The Golden Knights lead the NHL with nine postseason goals from their blueliners.
“To get deeper in the playoffs, you need scoring from everyone,” defenseman Nick Holden said. “If you get guys contributing that aren’t your big guns, you’re going to win games.”
As much as the Golden Knights know they can be better, the series favorites are well aware the Canadiens have another gear.
“We’re not taking anything for granted. We know the character of that team,” DeBoer said.
–Field Level Media