Former Vegas Golden Knights top draft pick Nick Suzuki led the Montreal Canadiens to a big 4-1 win in Game Five to push the VGK to the brink of elimination.
Suzuki scored an empty-net goal and added a pair of assists as the Canadiens took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and have a chance to move on to the Stanley Cup Final with a win on Thursday night. The former Golden Knights prospect, who was sent to Montreal as part of the Max Pacioretty deal, had by far his best game of the series Tuesday night. Suzuki also netted a plus-2 rating.
Interestingly it was Pacioretty who scored his first goal of the series to make it a 3-1 game at 4:09 of the third period.
His performance was emblematic of the way Montreal shut down the Golden Knights once again through hard work, tight checking, and clogging up the neutral zone. When Vegas couldn’t penetrate the offensive zone or turned the puck over, the Canadiens were able to capitalize off of chances and odd-man rushes.
“I thought we did a great job of killing plays through the neutral zone,” said Suzuki. “We had great back pressure, great sticks, turning a lot of pucks over and not letting them gain the blue line. Even when they did get into our zone, we had solid play all around… blocking shots. We just need to keep that up.”
Indeed this is a Montreal team that wasn’t supposed to be here. The majority of the hockey world never even gave them a chance, let alone thought they’d be one win away from the Stanley Cup Final. They’ve done it with a blue-collar work ethic and a stranglehold on the middle of the ice, with a solid mix of veterans and young players like Nick Suzuki leading the way.
“At the start of the playoffs, I think there were a lot of people who counted us out,” said Suzuki. “We’re a really confident team right now.”
No one is doubting that.
The Vegas Golden Knights are also a confident team, believing in their ability to bounce back in any series, any situation. Right now they face one of the toughest tests in the history of the young franchise. Will they be able to bounce back and win Game Six on the road? We will see Thursday night. They have until then to figure out the team that is quickly turning into this year’s Cinderella.