The last time that the Vegas Golden Knights were in Montreal, the Montreal Canadiens ended the night celebrating a trip to the Stanley Cup final. After a 5-2 loss on Saturday night at the Bell Centre, it’s fair to say that everything has changed.
It was a great start for the Canadiens, and there’s no other way to put it. They dominated the opening 20 minutes. For over 11 minutes, Montreal held Vegas without a shot on goal, after Montreal already had 12 shots. For most of the period, it looked like a story that hockey fans know all too well: One team dominating play only for the other team to get on the board against the run of play.
The danger came later, but before things got treacherous, Nick Suzuki scored the game’s opening goal on Montreal’s 17th shot of the game. The Canadiens converted a power play, when Mike Hoffman’s shot found its way to Suzuki, who did his best Babe Ruth impression and batted the puck past Robin Lehner.
Just over a minute later, Tyler Toffoli doubled the Canadiens lead when he broke in all alone behind the Golden Knights defence after a Brendan Gallagher pass and beat Lehner with a pretty deke and backhand.
The Canadiens held a 20-1 shot advantage after 20 minutes, and had a remarkable 99.3% of the offensive quality in the period at five-on-five, including a 16-1 scoring chance advantage.
The rest of the game was far from a state of grace, and by the end of the second period, the Canadiens were probably hoping they’d be able to begin again. The Vegas comeback started on the power play. With Ben Chiarot serving a delay-of-game penalty, Shea Theodore threaded a pass to Alex Pietrangelo who fired a slap shot past Jake Allen from the left circle.
Two goals in 1:36 completed Vegas’s comeback. Jonathan Marchessault jumped on a loose puck at the side of the net, and put a backhand into the net. After a Cedric Paquette cross-checking penalty put the Canadiens shorthanded again, Vegas took the lead. Dylan Coghlan fired a shot through traffic from the right circle for their second power play goal of the night.
The Montreal penalty kill is far from the holy ground it was on during the playoffs last year. The two goals Vegas scored with the power play were their first two goals with the extra player all season. The 16 goals the Canadiens have allowed while shorthanded are the most in the NHL.
In the third period, the game provided nothing new for the Canadiens. After six high-danger scoring chances at five-on-five in the opening 20 minutes, Montreal only had three the rest of the game, and one in the third period when they were looking for the tying goal.
With under three minutes remaining, Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme pulled Allen. The play had just gone four-on-four and the team had the offensive zone faceoff. The Canadiens won the draw, but Chris Wideman couldn’t handle the puck at the blueline and Chandler Stephenson scored the empty-net goal to make it 4-2. Brayden McNabb also added an empty net goal later in the period.
It was another disappointing game for the Canadiens as they dropped to 3-9-0 on the year. They will come back, and be at home against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday before wrapping up the homestand against the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
After the game, Ducharme said that the team is not getting the bounces. Instead of the puck hitting the post and going out, the puck has been going in their net. If the bounces don’t start turning around, the Canadiens 2021-22 season might resemble a forever winter as the nights get longer under the starlight and leave themselves having to hope to be the lucky one in the Draft Lottery.
The Canadiens were without Jonathan Drouin who remains out after getting hit in the head with a puck on Tuesday. Adam Brooks and Sami Niku were healthy scratches.