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Canadiens vs. Golden Knights game recap: Montreal mounts two comebacks to claim a 5-4 win

A bad start turned into a great final result for the home side.

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

The night before the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, the Montreal Canadiens honoured a few military veterans ahead of their game at the Bell Centre, which included a hearty rendition of the national anthems.

Tomas Plekanec, watching from the pressbox, was also celebrated during the first period after his retirement from the NHL was announced earlier this week, to a rousing ovation from the home crowd.

The organization also took the opportunity of Max Pacioretty’s return to pay tribute to the former captain. A cheer greeted him after the video montage was done, and the teams got down to business.

Pacioretty seemed to be energized by the reception, coming out of the gate flying. He didn’t have any points for his effort in the opening 20 minutes, but had recorded five shots on net.

Image credit: Natural Stat Trick

His teammates were able to find some success, however. With just over two minutes remaining in the first period, Brad Hunt corralled the puck and waited for the perfect opportunity, shooting it short side on Antti Niemi to make it a 1-0 game.

Fifty-seven seconds later, the Golden Knights got a bit of Vegas luck. Jonathan Marchessault was skating by the crease looking to get into a shooting position, and a puck sent across from Reilly Smith glanced off his foot and into the net. It was recorded as the eighth goal of the season for a player who notched 27 one year ago.

The visitors were fully in control when the intermission horn sounded, with the Canadiens needing to show something in what was looking like a third consecutive defeat.

In the break, Brendan Gallagher admitted the team was looking more like the 2017-18 squad and not the one that had had a chance to claim top spot in the division just days ago, and needed to get back to what had worked.

It seemed to be the team mentailty when the second period began, with the Canadiens gaining momentum from the opening faceoff. It took just a few minutes to make up the shot-attempt deficit that had built up in the first, and six minutes to get on the scoreboard.

Carrying the puck over the blue line, Jesperi Kotkaniemi moved to a position an equal distance between three defenders. Drawing them all to his position, he then dished the puck to a net-charging Charles Hudon. With plenty of vacated space to work with, Hudon deked across the front of Marc-Andre Fleury to pot his third of the season.

Then it was the Canadiens’ chance to get credit for two goals in about a minute of game time. Jonathan Drouin had three shots on Fleury, but it was Andrew Shaw who eventually knocked in a loose puck to get the Habs back on even terms. On the goal, Max Domi earned his second points streak of six games this season.

Montreal wasn’t done there. The foot never came off the accelerator with the game tied, and three minutes later they had their first lead of the night.

Artturi Lehkonen fought to get the puck behind the net near the end of his shift, expending his last reserve of energy to lumber to it as it popped loose. He pushed it to Kotkaniemi in front of the goal, and the rookie quickly poked in his third of the season.

The Canadiens wouldn’t get a turn to head to an intermission with a lead. Alex Tuch had a shot blocked by Jeff Petry, but the puck fell right to his stick for a second chance, and this time it encountered no resistance until it hit the mesh behind Niemi.

The third period was more of a special-teams battle than the first two had been. With Lehkonen sent to the box two minutes in for knocking over a Knights player while attempting to get the puck, William Karlsson launched a shot that was stopped by Niemi, but then propelled into the net by Matthew Peca as he tried to rein in the rebound.

The teams then traded power plays, first with Montreal a man up and then Las Vegas, but neither took advantage of the situation. Yet just seconds after the Canadiens had killed off a boarding minor to Hudon, Shaw tied the game for a second time by being in the right place at the right time once again to backhand home a rebound from a Domi shot.

The night had begun with a tribute to and hot start from Pacioretty, but it was ended by a player brought in to replace him. With eight minutes remaining, Tomas Tatar’s pass intended for Phillip Danault was deflected by Shea Theodore right between his goaltender’s pads. The Golden Knights had no answering tally as the Canadiens’ second comeback was enough to claim the 5-4 victory.

Thoughts

  • The defensive-zone play remains an adventure, but on this occasion the Canadiens were able to outscore their issues.
  • With two assists, Max Domi now has 21 points through 17 games. That a 101-point pace over a full 82-game schedule.

The Canadiens now head on the road, starting with a stop in Edmonton to take on Connor McDavid and ... well, pretty much just McDavid.