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Canadiens vs. Golden Knights game recap: Habs cash in

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Canadiens win their third straight on another strong effort from Charlie Lindgren.

NHL: Vegas Golden Knights at Montreal Canadiens Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

As the announcment was made that Carey Price would miss his third straight game with a lower-body injury, many fans began fearing the worst, and flashbacks to the 2015-16 season came to mind, when Price missed the majority of the season with a knee injury.

However, the injury does not seem to be as serious, and the team had the confidence to give Charlie Lindgren a second consecutive start.

Image credit: HockeyStats.ca

Coming off his first career NHL shutout against the Blackhawks, Lindgren looked confident and stable, and earned the opportunity tonight against the Vegas Golden Knights: another team that has had goaltending issues coming into the match up.

Early on, Montreal burst out of the gate, as both Tomas Plekanec and Brendan Gallagher tested Maxime Lagace early, pressuring the Knights’ fourth-string goaltender. An early power play reinforced that notion, as the Canadiens combined crisp puck movement as well as various shots on goal, including two quality chances for Alex Galchenyuk.

As the penalty ended, Vegas put on a counter attack, and a great opportunity for James Neal was denied by the pad of Lindgren.

Despite this chance, Montreal vastly outshot and outplayed Vegas throughout the first period. Artturi Lehkonen had a great chance following Jonathan Drouin undressing a Golden Knights defender, but couldn’t bury the puck past Lagace.

Roughly eight minutes into the first, following a strong two-way effort from Paul Byron, Brendan Gallagher is left wide open on the side of the net, and converts on a Tomas Plekanec cross-crease pass, opening the scoring.

Less than two minutes later, Charles Hudon began to make his presence known, as he was all over the ice in this game. Gaining the zone with speed, he began the cycle to the point, resulting in Victor Mete sliding the puck over to Jordie Benn. Benn’s best Shea Weber impression gave the Habs the 2-0 lead.

The Canadiens continued their offensive efforts, outshooting Vegas 13-2 by the end of the period.

However, the visitors would get on the board before the period expired, as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare turned Jeff Petry inside out before slipping the puck past Lindgren on an impressive play.

The second period was a little more high paced on both ends of the ice, as Vegas came out from the intermission with some desperation, pushing harder in the offensive zone.

Regardless, Montreal kept pushing for a third goal themselves. Mete was inches away from scoring his first career goal early in the period, as a pass was almost re-directed by a Vegas defender, before it was swallowed up by Lagace.

The strong offensive-zone possession paid off for the Canadiens again, as a great backhand pass by Andrew Shaw found Petry at the opposite faceoff dot, and the defenceman’s shot was then deflected by a waiting Max Pacioretty in front of the net. The captain scored his sixth of the season, continuing a resurgence after a slow start. As was a theme with the first goal, the offence was created following a strong two-way effort, this time coming from Shaw.

Vegas then pushed back hard, but had a tough time putting another past Lindgren in the frame, as a breakaway chance for William Carrier was snuffed out by the young Canadiens goaltender.

Drouin was pulled from the game following the period, with a suspected hand injury after taking an awkward pass, leaving Galchenyuk at centre between Lehkonen and Torrey Mitchell.

And boy, did Galchenyuk come to play tonight. Even before the move to centre, number 27 was noticeable all night long. He had various chances on a power play earlier in the game, and almost set up the Habs’ fourth goal of the night, on an otherworldly pass to Lehkonen, who was absolutely robbed of a sure goal by Lagace.

Vegas put as much pressure on the Habs as they could muster in the final 10 minutes. Erik Haula did put the Golden Knights back on the board after Vegas pulled their goalie for the extra attacker, but it was as close as they would get, as the Canadiens won their third straight game, 3-2 the final.

Thoughts

  • Charlie Lindgren, man. He’s making a case to stay on the roster even when Price returns. He won his fifth NHL start, and remains undefeated in his NHL career,. He is the first rookie goalie to win his first five starts since 1972. He looks calm, cool and collected, and performed wonderfully through the Vegas blitz in the final two minutes.
  • Hudon didn’t end up impacting the scoresheet, but he was by far one of the best Canadiens last night. He led Montreal with five shots on goal, and had multiple prime opportunities in the third period, including this play where he blows by Luca Sbisa, only to be denied by Lagace:
  • Brendan Gallagher keeps getting rewarded for his strong play, collecting his seventh of the year to lead the Canadiens in goals. We could see him put up career numbers this season, as he has eight points in his last nine games, and has been playing consistently all season long.
  • Three straight wins and Montreal keeps rolling. With matchups against Minnesota, Buffalo, Columbus and Arizona approaching, we could possibly see this winning streak stretch out a little longer.
  • We’re seeing the best out of Alex Galchenyuk right now. He’s skating hard, making plays and performing with confidence. I was impressed by his game tonight, and he seemed to be clicking with Lehkonen and Drouin.
  • Speaking of Drouin, lets hope this injury isn’t too serious, as he had a strong game tonight as well, playing 11:09 with two shots on goal before leaving the game with an injury.

Montreal looks to avenge an earlier loss to the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night at the Bell Centre.