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Canadiens vs. Golden Knights Game 4 recap: Deserve’s got nothin’ to do with it

One of the best games of the Canadiens post-season ends in OT heartbreak.

Vegas Golden Knights v Montreal Canadiens - Game Four Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

In a series that has seen several dramatic storylines in its opening games, Game 4 looked to add yet another chapter. In Game 3, the Montreal Canadiens pulled off an almost miraculous comeback, stealing the game in overtime thanks to a brace of goals from Josh Anderson. One of them was aided by a gaffe of the ages by Marc-Andre Fleury, but it was an all-world game by Carey Price that helped secure the victory for Montreal.

In the last game the Canadiens had to play without their head coach Dominique Ducharme after a positive test for Covid-19, the same game in which Vegas Golden Knights general manager Kelly McCrimmon was seen without a mask. Prior to Game 4, he had to quarantine after a positive test of his own, and now faces a long quarantine himself.

On the ice, there was some goaltender drama from Vegas, as it was Robin Lehner getting the start after Fleury’s Game 3 misplay.

The Habs were far more aggressive compared to Game 3, and it was the battered and scarred Corey Perry who was leading the way early on. He wove through the Vegas defence, getting in alone on Lehner, but was held back by Nick Holden, crashing into the post as the puck rolled harmlessly off his stick.

Even as Vegas got their legs underneath them, the Canadiens kept the game on their terms, continuing to pressure the Knights’ defence, with the fourth line in particular hounding their opponents. It was again Perry nearly creating a goal as he broke around a defender and was tripped up as he fed a shot to the front of the net. Lehner made the initial save, and barely stopped the follow-up by Eric Staal. While it looked close to crossing the goal line on the review, there was not enough conclusive proof that the shot fully crossed the line and the game remained scoreless.

Montreal remained firmly in command as the Knights went well over seven minutes without a shot on goal, ending the period with just four total, none of which troubled Price at all. Josh Anderson ended the period strong, taking a perfect stretch pass from Joel Edmundson and fooling Lehner and Nick Holden, but fired his shot high over the net. As the horn sounded it was Montreal leading in shots, and looking to avoid their usual second-period struggles after a strong 20 minutes.

The woes of the second period were absent as the middle frame began, with Montreal still flying all over the ice, making life a nightmare for anyone in a white sweater at either end of the ice. The Habs grabbed the best chance in the early going as well, with an errant pass from the Knights leaving the zone and Brendan Gallagher speeding off after it. He collected the puck, then slammed on the brakes to spin and fire a hard backhand shot into Lehner’s pads for a rebound that Phillip Danault just missed out on jamming home.

Then, after disappearing for almost the entire game, the officials decided to intervene. Tomas Nosek boarded Shea Weber from behind, not drawing a call, so Weber in turn landed a punch on the back of Nosek’s helmet, kicking of a kerfuffle between the two that finally resulted in matching minor penalties.

Then came a ticky-tack hook on Nick Suzuki, giving Vegas the game’s first power play. Instead of wilting against the late power play, the Habs fought off Vegas once more to keep the score at zero. Then, as Suzuki stepped out of the box, he picked up a puck in the Habs’ end, then sprung Paul Byron on a breakaway with a beautiful pass. Byron sped in uncontested, and roofed a perfect shot over Lehner to give Montreal a well-deserved lead.

Almost inconceivably the Canadiens drew the game’s next power play as Alec Martinez went to the box. While on that advantage the officiating again took centre stage as the officials watched Brayden McNabb punch Nick Suzuki in the face, calling nothing, and letting the clock run out to end the second period as everyone expected the play to be blown dead.

Vegas had to kill the remainder of Montreal’s power play in the second, and despite some good pressure from the Habs to start, the Canadiens weren’t able to add to their one-goal advantage. The Golden Knights were able to flip the pressure, hemming in the Canadiens, but Price came up with some big saves on Alex Pietrangelo, and oddly enough (maybe not so odd at this point) Ben Chiarot.

Montreal weathered the early storm and then went back to work on hammering the Vegas defenders with scoring chances in their own end. Even when the Knights managed to gain the Montreal zone, the Habs turned it around on them, including a Cole Caufield breakaway that Robin Lehner squeezed off at the last second.

Vegas did finally find the scoresheet though, after Chris Lee stopped two clearing attempts, William Karlsson darted through the zone, and left a puck off for Brayden McNabb. The gritty defender fired a shot as Joel Edmundson crossed in front of Carey Price, and it squeaked through the smallest of gaps to tie the game for the Golden Knights.

The Habs tried to get their lead back, with the top line buzzing all around Lehner’s net, but they failed to find a second goal, and the final minutes passed without incident, forcing the game to overtime once again.

There was no overtime magic in Game 4, however, as Chiarot was caught on a long shift, and Vegas took advantage. Nicolas Roy pounced on a puck in front of the net, with Price denying the first attempt,but Roy’s following chip shot just cleared the Habs goalie and a diving Jesperi Kotkaniemi, giving Vegas a stolen 2-1 win in Game 4.

Considering how the previous game played out, this loss mirrors the Habs’ overtime win in Game 3 so in the end things probably evened out over the two-game stint in Montreal. Now, the series shifts back to Las Vegas, where the Canadiens will look to bounce back in Game 5 on Tuesday night.