The Montreal Canadiens must have been rolling into Game 3 against the Vegas Golden Knights with a boatload of swagger after scoring a massive win in Game 2 on Wednesday night. They potted three goals from three distinct players while getting a standout showing in net from Carey Price to bounce back from their opening game loss.
But entering Friday, things got somewhat more complicated as head coach Dominique Ducharme was not able to be on the seat following a positive test for COVID-19. While Ducharme was outside, the lineup stayed the same as it was in Game 2, with both Jon Merrill and Jeff Petry set to perform .
The opening moments of the match were tentative to say the least, as Vegas commanded the puck but did little with it, while Montreal was struggling to put any type of pressure together whatsoever. Vegas was awarded the first real chance of the game to break the scoreless draw, as Jesperi Kotkaniemi was whistled for a hook against Alec Martinez. The penalty kill was about Price however, as the franchise cornerstone slammed the door closed on every chance the Knights made in tight.
The even-up call came soon enough for Montreal as Keegan Kolesar was delivered to the box for interference behind the Habs' internet. Regardless of the power play appearing better in recent excursions, the very first effort on Friday night was not able to generate much, even with Nick Suzuki flinging no-look passes across the zone into Cole Caufield. In the long run, the Habs managed only one shot from Phillip Danault since the benefit expired.
The sole Hab who appeared to be completely engaged was Price because he refused Nicolas Roy on a partial breakaway, then held the line as the Golden Knights continued to swarm all around the Montreal crease. Having an already large shot advantage, the Knights went back into the power play as Joel Armia was called for boarding. Again the Canadiens' penalty kill stymied the opposition, keeping the game scoreless since the 2 sides led into the first intermission.
Phase two did not start much better to the Habs, as Shea Weber led Suzuki using a pass right into a massive hit from Brayden McNabb, on which Weber subsequently took a penalty for retaliating. Even with no top penalty-killer, Montreal kept Vegas off the board with comparative ease and killed off the early little punishment.
Unfortunately it was the Canadiens' own mistakes that enabled Vegas to start the scoring, and it arrived from the generally sure-handed Eric Staal. The veteran centre gathered a puck behind the web, and absent-mindedly turned it outside in front of Price -- directly onto Roy's stick.
That lead lasted not even 40 minutes as the phenom duo of both Suzuki and Caufield found the back of the internet. Suzuki managed to catch a puck off a blocked shot, then feed a streaking Caufield, who calmly broke in alone on Marc-Andre Fleury and roofed his second goal of the playoffs to tie the match.