Marc-Andre Fleury’s third-period gaffe that led to the Golden Knights losing to the Canadiens in Game 3 means Vegas can send its Stanley Cup playoff semifinal series one of two ways starting Sunday in Montreal.
The miscue, which led to Josh Anderson’s late game-tying goal and eventually his overtime winner in the Canadiens’ 3-2 victory, can send the Golden Knights down the drain and the Canadiens running to the final series.
Or, Vegan can recover and regain the emotional edge in the series. Montreal holds a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Fleury misplayed the puck behind his net, allowing it to carom off his skate to Anderson in front of the net.
“I’ve been through this before. Obviously, I wish things were different, but it is what it is,” Fleury said. “Can’t dwell on it too long. Just move on and get ready for (Sunday).”
Fleury’s gaffe notwithstanding, his value to the Golden Knights can’t be diminished in getting the team this far. Besides, his teammates outplayed the Canadiens by a huge margin all game and likely should have created more goals to own a bigger lead.
“We had to capitalize on a few more chances in regulation and we aren’t even talking about it,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “We had lots of looks that we need to bear down and score. … It’s one mistake. We had to bail him out.”
Certainly, the Golden Knights have bigger issues to address going forward. Most obvious is the fact they have only two goals in the three games scored by forwards and have been blanked on the power play during the series (0-for-10).
“There’s a lot of problems,” forward Reilly Smith said of the power play. “I don’t think you can just pinpoint one. Our breakouts have been bad. We’re not doing a good job handling pressure. We’re not releasing the puck very well, and we’re not doing a good job crashing the net and picking up rebounds.
“So, there’s a lot of things we have to get better at, and it’s costing us the series right now.”
On top of having a perfect 4-0 record in overtime games, the Canadiens have been perfect while shorthanded in 10 consecutive contests. A big factor has been the play of goaltender Carey Price, who made 43 saves on Friday and has stopped 98 of the 106 shots he’s faced in the first three games of the series.
“He’s a huge reason why we’ve been so successful, and it was no different (Friday),” Montreal captain Shea Weber said. “I thought we weren’t very good to start. They made a point to have a good start, and they were definitely better than us. I thought we got better as the game went on, but without Carey, we wouldn’t have had a chance to do what we did.”
Canadiens interim coach Dominique Ducharme won’t be behind the bench for a second consecutive game on Sunday after he tested positive for COVID-19. Assistants Luke Richardson and Alexandre Burrows will continue to run the team.
“It’s been up and down this year, but I feel like we’ve always responded well to the adversity,” Price said. “It was just another example of that. Not having Dom behind the bench is just another twist that we’re going to have to deal with. I thought our assistant coaches did a great job of stepping up.”
–Field Level Media