For a team that can race like a thoroughbred, the Vegas Golden Knights are constantly leaving the starting gate slower than a plow horse.
It’s a situation the Golden Knights must address when they play Game 3 of their Stanley Cup playoffs semifinal series against the host Montreal Canadiens on Friday.
The Canadiens have held all of the early momentum in both games this series, including Wednesday’s 3-2 victory in Las Vegas. The best-of-seven series is tied at one win apiece.
Montreal bolted out to a 2-0 first-period lead in Wednesday’s clash, continuing trends that are becoming trademarks for both sides.
The Canadiens opened the scoring in 10 of their playoff 13 games, and outscored opponents by a 12-3 margin in the first period. The Golden Knights have been outscored 15-8 in first period and opened the scoring in only five of their 15 playoff games.
“For whatever reason, our starts in the playoffs haven’t been good enough,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “You know, we’ve been burnt before. We got burnt again (Wednesday). You can’t go down 2-0 and expect to win the game.”
Buoyed by a two-goal edge in the opening period, the Canadiens tallied again late in the second to take a 3-0 lead.
“They’re a quick-starting team,” Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said. “That’s part of their identity. … We’ve got to have an answer for that.”
The Golden Knights also must find a way for their offensive standouts to find their form. While their defensemen have provided an impact by scoring five of their six goals so far in the series, the Golden Knights need the likes of Stone, former Canadien Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault to find the scoresheet.
The Canadiens deserve credit for stifling those skaters, but it’s incumbent on the Golden Knights to overcome.
“Chasing the game is not an easy task against anybody, but these guys play a good team game when they get the lead,” Stone said. “We’ve got to do a better job.”
The Canadiens know they’re still deemed the underdogs in this series, but they believe they are on the right path after earning a much-desired split of the first two games in Vegas.
“That was our objective,” Montreal interim coach Dominique Ducharme said. “We lost Game 1 and we wanted to make sure that we left Las Vegas with the series tied. We’re in a good spot, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
“There’s always a mental aspect to the playoffs. We want to be better every game. We want to build a certain rhythm from one game to the next. A mental aspect always comes into play. We really wanted to get a (road) win. Vegas plays well at home. They had success all year, especially with a full building in the playoffs. It proves what we believe.”
That said, the Canadiens are well aware how the Golden Knights recovered from dropping their first two games with the Colorado Avalanche in the second round before winning the next four to capture the series.
“Our mission is to win the series. It’s just one game,” Montreal forward Paul Byron said. “There’s a lot of hockey left. It was important for us to win (on Wednesday). Vegas is very good at home. Now, it’ll be great to play in front of our fans.”
While the Golden Knights were allowed to host a sellout crowd of 17,920 last game, the Canadiens are only allowed 3,500 fans for the next two games.
–Field Level Media