With the Vegas Golden Knights and Montreal Canadiens tied at 2-2 and heading back to T-Mobile Arena for Game Five Tuesday night, today was an off day for both teams. After a big overtime win in Game Four the Golden Knights have regained home ice advantage in the series. Here’s a look at a crazy last 36 hours in the series.
Lehner Motivated by Media Shit-Talking Him
Before the Vegas Golden Knights won Game Four in overtime, the most talked-about move of the series so far saw Robin Lehner tabbed as the starting goaltender over Marc-Andre Fleury. Lehner played extremely well, making 27 saves for the win. Vegas won 2-1 and tied the series at two games apiece.
After the game, Lehner even created some buzz by calling out the media for “talking shit” about him on Twitter, and how it motivates him to play better.
“Not many people know that I come to the game four hours early. I get my own bus to come four hours early,’ Lehner began. “I sat for two hours and watched you guys talk shit on Twitter about me, to get me motivated.”
In fact, most of the post-game stories and questions were about Lehner’s performance and his subsequent comments. Make no mistake, Vegas won that game because of goaltending. It’s goaltending that has gotten them this far and will continue to do so as they scrape and gouge goals from nothingness. It’s been just enough to get them into a tied series on the doorstep of the Stanley Cup Final.
Is This Vegas Golden Knights Team Special?
I know you’re tired of hearing it. I’m tired of writing it. The players are tired of defending or admitting it. But it doesn’t change the fact that right now the biggest players on the Vegas Golden Knights are the biggest question marks. Yet once again Vegas failed to get a goal from any of its top-six forwards, relying on the third line and defense for putting the puck in the net.
How has Vegas survived this far into the playoffs with a malady that would kill ordinary teams? Is it because there’s something special brewing?
“I think we’re a resilient team,” said Jonathan Marchessault ahead of Tuesday’s Game Five in Vegas. “We don’t quit, we don’t… accept defeat. We just keep going. We just keep battling. We never know what can happen in a playoff game and you gotta give yourself a chance.”
The Montreal Canadiens could easily make the same argument, and perhaps more convincingly. They were about to tee it up, down 3-1 to the Toronto Maple Leafs when they suddenly caught fire. The Habs won the next three games to advance and then promptly swept the Winnipeg Jets after the Canadian media largely said they were cannon fodder. They’ve done it with stellar goaltending and balanced team scoring. Sound familiar?
Alex Pietrangelo has been a huge piece of the puzzle these playoffs for Vegas. He’s not only been great in his own end but seriously active up ice as well. His 11 points are second on the team in the post-season to William Karlsson, and Pietrangelo has three goals in the Montreal series. He’s taking a bigger-picture approach to offense for the Golden Knights and their ability to stick around and win some tough games.
“I think (battling back) gives you confidence in our game that whether we’re up or down we’ve got a chance to win,” said Pietrangelo. “I think the way we (the defense) activate is important. Some games, some series you’re going to score more than others. Right now as a group… we’re finding the back of the net and I think that’s important. There’s a lot of talk about the forwards… not scoring but they’re creating opportunities, creating those plays that are allowing us to score goals.”
Still, the big guns know they have to make a difference in this series.
“Obviously it’s great that we tied the series (in Game Four),” said Marchessault. “But at some point, the big guys have to come out and step up here including myself. It’s not good enough for the forward group that we have to have only three goals in four games. We’re facing an unbelievable goalie but that’s no excuse. We gotta find a way… we need (a) solution ASAP and help our team win some games here.”
What is truly remarkable is how the team has managed to keep on winning games and advancing even without much production from its top point producer and goal scorer from the regular season in Mark Stone and Max Pacioretty.
Missing Chandler Stephenson, But For How Much Longer?
It hasn’t been made easier by the fact that center Chandler Stephenson has not played since Game One, out with an upper-body injury that has only been described as day-to-day. Without the usual pivot in between Stone and Pacioretty, Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer has tried a handful of players in that spot including Keegan Kolesar, Alex Tuch and Tomas Nosek.
“We’ve played basically this series without our number one center so far,” said DeBoer. “I want to get him back in there and I think that’s on the horizon. I give credit to the guys who have been in there. It hasn’t maybe looked as pretty as everyone would like but we’ve found a way.”
None of the players to audition for the role have clearly stuck out, although Nosek seems to have found some favor in that spot. Given DeBoer’s comments on getting Stephenson back into the lineup being “on the horizon” I would not be surprised if he only misses one more game or even returns on Tuesday night. Remember that when Pacioretty was able to come back, that’s when DeBoer tipped his hand by even mentioning Max skating on his own. He was back immediately after. Perhaps the same will occur with Stephenson.
Nicolas Roy Scores OT Winner In Front of Family
Hailing from a tiny little town on the Harricana River in Northwestern Quebec called Amos (population 12,823), Nicolas Roy is only the second NHL player ever from there to play in the NHL. Sunday night, he scored the biggest goal of his career in front of his family who had made their way to the Bell Centre to watch the game. TV showed them celebrating the goal decked out in Vegas Golden Knights jerseys.
“That was unbelievable,” Roy said after the game. “I’ve got my family here and they were really happy.”
Roy said that both of his parents, his sister, his mother and father-in-law and brother-in-law were in attedance.
“You’re just so excited for him,” said DeBoer. “You couldn’t have a better ending in a better place and a better guy for it to happen to. It’s a dream come true for a young guy. It gives you goose bumps.”