Montreal Canadiens netminder Carey Price made 29 saves Wednesday in a 3-2 win over the host Las Vegas Golden Knights that gave new life to Canada’s Stanley Cup hopes.
The win lets the Habs go back to Montreal for Game 3 Friday with their best-of-seven semifinal battle tied at one game apiece.
Joel Armia notched his fifth goal of the playoffs, opening the scoring for Montreal midway through the first frame. Tyler Toffoli and Paul Byron also scored for the Habs.
Joel Edmundson picked up a pair of assists, while Jeff Petry, Corey Perry, Cole Caufield and Jesperi Kotkaniemi registered an assist each.
Defender Alex Pietrangelo notched both Vegas goals.
Price stopped 29 of 31 shots, while at the other end, Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 20 of 23 in front of a capacity crowd of 17,920.
Montreal opened the scoring with 6:12 gone in the first when Armia snapped a loose puck past a helpless Fleury to notch his fifth goal of the playoffs.
The Canadiens made it 2-0 at the 16:30 mark when Toffoli collected Caulfield’s pass in the slot, firing a weak changeup that somehow trickled through Fleury’s pads.
Byron added insult to injury late in the second, capitalizing on a giveaway deep in Knights territory to race in alone on Fleury, beating him glove side.
Pietrangelo finally got Vegas on the board moments later with a blue-line blast through traffic that glanced off the skate of a screened Price.
The Habs outshot the Knights 12-4 in the first period, but didn’t register their 13th until nearly six minutes into the second.
Instead, it was Vegas ratcheting up the shot count throughout the second frame, only to encounter a blazing hot Price, whose theatrics kept the Golden Knights largely at bay all night.
At one point, an Alec Martinez blast from point-blank range left the boisterous crowd at T-Mobile Arena baffled when it didn’t find the net, only to realize that Price’s lightning-fast blocker had sent the puck whistling over the glass.
The Golden Knights won an NHL-best 40 games in the shortened 56-game regular season and tied Colorado for the highest point total in the league — 23 points more than Montreal in the standings.
But the Canadiens have been the underdogs twice already this post-season.
They were not expected to beat the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round, nor were they favoured to overcome the third-place Winnipeg Jets in the second round. The team silenced critics in both cases and came into Vegas riding a seven-game win streak that included a sweep of the Jets.
The Montreal-Vegas series is the first cross-border matchup in the NHL this season, made possible by a federal exemption allowing teams to bypass 14-day quarantine requirements.
THE CANADIAN PRESS