LAS VEGAS (AP) — The Montreal Canadiens vowed to adapt after looking out of sync in the first game of their Stanley Cup semifinal series with the Vegas Golden Knights.
It’s exactly what they did Wednesday night.
Carey Price made 29 saves and the Canadiens beat Vegas 3-2 to tie the series at a game apiece.
Price improved to 9-4 in the playoffs, his most victories in a postseason. He had eight in 2014.
Paul Byron, Joel Armia and Tyler Toffoli scored for Montreal, with Bryon making it 3-0 with 2:45 left in the second period.
Alex Pietrangelo scored twice for Vegas, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves.
Abandoning the rugged approach they took in Game 1, the Canadiens looked more like the team that reeled off seven straight wins in the first and second rounds, dominating in all three zones in the first 20 minutes.
“We showed some good composure,” Montreal coach Dominique Ducharme said. “At one point we felt the pressure, they were trying to come back. Overall, we showed pretty good composure. I think we can still do a better job. We wanted to support the puck better. I think we did that tonight and it paid off. I think we still can be better on a few occasions managing the puck and we’ll do that.”
Game 3 is Friday night in Montreal.
Montreal, which improved to 6-2 on the road in the postseason, has won 21 straight playoff games when scoring three or more goals.
“Can’t go down 2-0 and expect to win the game,” Vegas captain Mark Stone said. “These guys play a good team game when they get the lead. We gotta do a better job with our starts and we gotta find our preparation.”
With Vegas missing top-line center Chandler Stephenson, and third-line center Nick Roy skating in his place, Montreal opened the game with a first-period advantage in shots-on-goal (12-4), shot attempts (24-13), scoring chances (14-4), and high-danger chances (8-1).
Armia got the scoring going after he crunched Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez into the end boards behind Fleury, allowing Corey Perry to gather the puck and feed Joel Edmundson in the right circle. Edmundson fired a shot that deflected back to Armia, who one-timed it past Fleury’s right skate.
Jeff Petry made his presence felt in his first game back after missing Montreal’s last two. He played give-and-go with Cole Caufield, who opted to pass across the slot rather than fire on net and found Toffoli, who snapped a shot through Fleury’s pads to not only push the Canadiens’ lead to 2-0, but extend Montreal’s first-period scoring edge in the playoffs to 12-3.
Vegas rookie Keegan Kolesar, who started the game centering the third line, switched place with Roy and gave top-line wings Stone and Max Pacioretty a bit more jump to bolster Vegas offense.
But the Golden Knights continued to be their own worst enemy in the second period, as Pacioretty clanked a breakaway shot off the bottom of the right post. Then during a power play, Martinez broke his stick while teeing off on a shot to Price’s left, and moments later it was Pacioretty whiffing on a shot at the doorstep.
“Gotta capitalize on some of those in the second period,” Stone added. “Hit a post and had a chance in the slot, we had lots of chances to score, power play needs to score.”
Vegas was finally able to solve Price when Pietrangelo held the puck at the blue line long enough to find a right lane to the net, bringing the deficit back down to two goals late in the second.
Vegas cut the lead to one with a little more than five minutes left in the game when William Karlsson won a faceoff to the right of Price, Jonathan Marchessault gathered the puck and fed Pietrangelo, whose wrist shot from the circle gave him his second goal of the night.
But Price was a wall from that point on, stopping Vegas’ last seven shots over the final 4:36 of the game.
“You know he’s going to shut the door,” Byron said of Price. “You know you’ve just got to do your job, win your battles along the wall, get your clears. You don’t want to turn pucks over and give the team high-danger chances. You just know Carey’s going to be locked in and he’s going to do his job, and it’s up to the rest of the team to win their battles, try to get the puck out of your zone, play some time in their zone and things will happen.”
With his assist, Caufield became just the second 20-year-old Canadien to post a playoff point streak of at least four games. … Toffoli has recorded a point in each of his last five road games. Only four Canadiens have recorded a longer such point streak in the postseason.
PREGAME: Outside temperature in Las Vegas is 115 degrees at game time. Hottest temperature ever for an NHL game.
FIRST PERIOD: Canadiens goal Joel Armia (Wrist shot), Assists: Joel Edmundson and Corey Perry. CANADIENS 1, KNIGHTS 0.
Canadiens goal Tyler Toffoli (Slap shot), Assists: Cole Caufield and Jeff Petry. CANADIENS 2, KNIGHTS 0. Shots on goal, Canadiens 12, Knights 4,
SECOND PERIOD: Canadiens goal Paul Byron (Backhand shot), Assists: Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Joel Edmundson. CANADIENS 3, KNIGHTS 0.
Knights goal Alex Pietrangelo (Wrist shot), Assist: Keegan Kolesar. CANADIENS 3, KNIGHTS 1. Shots on goal: Canadiens 16, Knights 14
THIRD PERIOD: Knights goal Alex Pietrangelo (Wrist shot), Assists: Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson. CANADIENS 3, KNIGHTS 2,
This is the pregame story
Montreal Canadiens (24-21-11, fourth in the North Division during the regular season) vs. Vegas Golden Knights (40-14-2, second in the West Division during the regular season)
T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada; Wednesday, 6 p.m. PDT
LINE: Golden Knights -272, Canadiens +222; over/under is 5.5
NHL PLAYOFFS THIRD ROUND: Golden Knights lead series 1-0
BOTTOM LINE: The Vegas Golden Knights host the Montreal Canadiens in the third round of the NHL Playoffs with a 1-0 lead in the series. The teams meet Wednesday for the second time this season. The Golden Knights won the previous matchup 4-1.
The Golden Knights are 21-5-2 at home. Vegas is eighth in the league with 32.7 shots per game and is averaging 3.4 goals.
The Canadiens are 11-10-7 on the road. Montreal is 24th in the NHL with 31.2 shots per game and is averaging 2.8 goals.
TOP PERFORMERS: Mark Stone leads the Golden Knights with 61 points, scoring 21 goals and adding 40 assists. Jonathan Marchessault has five goals and two assists over the last 10 games for Vegas.
Tyler Toffoli leads the Canadiens with 44 points, scoring 28 goals and collecting 16 assists. Joel Armia has four goals and one assist over the last 10 games for Montreal.
DURING THE PLAYOFFS: Golden Knights: Averaging 3.1 goals, 5.4 assists, 3.0 penalties and 8.1 penalty minutes while giving up 2.3 goals per game with a .913 save percentage.
Canadiens: Averaging 2.4 goals, 3.9 assists, 3.3 penalties and 7.6 penalty minutes while giving up 2.3 goals per game with a .924 save percentage.
INJURIES: Golden Knights: Peyton Krebs: out (upper body), Tomas Nosek: day to day (undisclosed).
Canadiens: Jon Merrill: out (undisclosed), Jeff Petry: day to day (undisclosed), Jake Evans: out (concussion), Tomas Tatar: day to day (undisclosed).