The sold out T-Mobile Arena crowd did not affect the Canadiens early in Game 1. In their first game outside Canada and in front of way more than the 2,500 fans that have been inside Bell Centre for playoff games this postseason, Montreal owned the first 15 minutes against the Golden Knights Monday night.
If there’s one thing you don’t want to do against a team like Vegas, it’s not capitalizing on your chances. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Canadiens led the Golden Knights at 5-on-5 in unblocked shot attempts (14-10), shots on goal (11-5), high-danger scoring chances (7-1), expected goals for (1.65-0.28) and possession (53%-47%) in the first period. An impressive start for a team that had four more days off between rounds than their opponents.
“We liked our first period in the series-opener,” said Canadiens head coach Dominique Ducharme. “We want to be more consistent in the way we play. We want to repeat what we did in the first period for the entire 60 minutes tonight (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN). We want to be more effective with the puck, and we want to be more active and dynamic in terms of supporting the puck carrier. Those are the kinds of details that will help us be more consistent for 60 minutes.”
That period was Montreal’s chance to get ahead, but they failed to do so. Vegas withstood the Habs’ start and got the opening goal via Shea Theodore‘s blast from the point.
Theodore’s goal was the turning point in the game. It allowed Vegas to settle down while also putting the Canadiens on their heels and playing from behind. The Golden Knights coaching staff knew exactly how much things would swing in their favor if they could grab the lead.
“We talked in our pre-scout meetings that they would be uncomfortable in their structure playing from behind,” said Vegas head coach Peter DeBoer. “No one made them play from behind for a while. The goal was huge and at the right time with how we were playing.”
Prior to Monday night, the last time Montreal trailed in a game was Game 4 against the Maple Leafs in the First Round, a stretch of 447:08.
The Canadiens are 8-1 this postseason when scoring first and 0-3 when falling behind 1-0. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, have five wins after allowing the opening goal. It’s not the decisive factor in victories, but it’s an area of the game that both teams have focused on.
“When you’re playing with the lead, it obviously makes the game a lot easier,” said Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli. “We definitely had some really good opportunities. The entire first period, I thought, that was our best period. [Marc-Andre] Fleury made some, some big saves for them. But, playing with the lead is huge – especially to be on the road.
“I think that’s going to be one of the key things for [Game 2], is to have another good start and just capitalize on our opportunities.”
CANADIENS VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (VGK leads 1-0) – series livestream link
Game 1: Golden Knights 4, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Wed. June 16: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
Game 3: Fri. June 18: Golden Knights at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network / Peacock)
Game 4: Sun. June 20: Golden Knights at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
*Game 5: Tues. June 22: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 9 p.m ET (NBCSN / Peacock)
*Game 6: Thurs. June 24: Golden Knights at Canadiens, 8 p.m. ET (USA Network / Peacock)
*Game 7: Sat. June 26: Canadiens at Golden Knights, 8 p.m ET (NBCSN / Peacock)