If Game 3’s spectacular goaltending performance was Carey Price writing a love letter to the rest of the Montreal Canadiens, then Game 4 was them trying to write one back. Unfortunately it ended about as badly as when Romeo and Juliet tried to pen theirs. It not only left them heartbroken, but we the spectators as well.
Montreal dominated every important statistic for the whole game, except when it mattered most. They controlled the shot attempts in the first and third period with a dip in the second.
The Vegas Golden Knights did not get a single high-danger shot attempt during regulation. Remember, in publicly available data, “high-danger” is simply based on where the shot came from. It doesn’t take into account one-timers or screens. So, it’s not a perfect stat, but it’s still impressive for Montreal to dominate the front of the net so thoroughly.
In no universe is this loss Price’s fault either. But, Lehner was a difference-maker. Montreal had 2.7 expected goals last night and only scored one. Lehner outperformed the expected goals by almost triple. And just like Montreal did in Game 3, Vegas came alive when they needed to most. They had the only scoring chance of the overtime period, and they only needed the one. But those stats don’t tell the whole story.
Shakespeare wrote in Henry VIII, “Things done well and with care, exempt themselves from fear.” Well, the end of the third period and that overtime were hardly exempt from fear. The Canadiens chased the play the entire time.
I hate to resort to a lazy narrative, but it honestly just looked like Vegas wanted it more. When they came out in overtime the Knights didn’t look any different tactically, but it just seemed that the Habs lost every 50/50 board battle and every race to the puck in the brief time the extra period lasted.
Take a look at the game-winning goal for instance. Ben Chiarot had the puck on his stick and failed to clear it. Max Pacioretty grabbed the puck and took it for a spin behind the net with Shea Weber in tow. Pacioretty then got himself open to take a good shot. Price stopped the first one, but there were two rebound attempts.
At this point, Weber was way out of position from chasing the former captain and unable to get back. Chiarot was boxing out Alex Tuch, who seemed perfectly content to hang out with the Montreal defenceman and watch the play unfold.
By the end Montreal seemed completely gassed. The defence was pulled out of position and unable to get back, leaving Price alone to try to stop the barrage of shots.
As atrocious as the officiating was, I personally don’t think it single-handedly lost Montreal the game (feel free to disagree with me in the comments). I would also bet my bottom dollar that if Montreal plays a game like that again, they’ll win a lot more often than they’ll lose.
Montreal is still the underdog team, still the team with less starpower and more to prove. The main thing now is for Montreal to not be afraid and go into Game 5 with the same swagger they came into Game 4 with. lest, as the worse team, the Habs are cursed.