This time Peter DeBoer’s goalie decision worked out.
Robin Lehner was the best player on the ice for the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday night, stopping 27 out of 28 shots in a 2-1 overtime win to help them tie their semifinal series with the Montreal Canadiens at two games apiece.
DeBoer made the decision to go with Lehner after the Golden Knights’ Game 3 loss that was highlighted by Marc-Andre Fleury’s late turnover. It was just Lehner’s second start since May 10 and a bold decision given how good Fleury has been for most of the playoffs. Also since Lehner gave up seven goals in his only other start this postseason (Game 1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in the Second Round).
But everything worked as planned on Sunday as the Golden Knights have now turned this into a best-of-three series where they now have home ice back on their side.
Nicolas Roy scored the game-winning goal for the Golden Knights just one minute into the overtime period.
It capped off a rather stunning turn of events. For the first 50 minutes on Sunday the Golden Knights could not generate anything against a smothering Montreal defense. They struggled to get shots on goal, they had almost no scoring chances, and outside of an Alex Pietrangelo shot off the post on a power play they were never really close to scoring a goal.
It looked like Montreal was going to grind out a 1-0 win and take a commanding 3-1 series lead.
None of that would have mattered through if not for the sensational play of Lehner in net.
He made a couple of highlight reel saves on the night, including a potential game-saving stop on Montreal’s Cole Caufield early in the third period just before McNabb’s game-tying goal.
Caufield picked up a loose puck in the neutral zone, blew past the Vegas defense, and broke in alone on Lehner for a partial breakaway but was unable to beat him. He also made a stunning pad save in the first period taking away what looked to be a sure Montreal goal. The only shot to beat him was a Paul Byron breakaway just after another successful Montreal penalty kill in the second period. Other than that, he was flawless. And the Golden Knights needed him to be.
It now creates a big question and discussion heading into Game 5 on Tuesday night. Does DeBoer stick with Lehner after such an impressive showing? Or was this simply a one-time start to give Fleury a rest and an opportunity to be fresh for the stretch run of the series?
On the Montreal side, this result has to be a major gut punch. The Canadiens were the better team on Sunday. They controlled the pace of the game, they had the better of the chances, and they were mostly sensational defensively against one of the league’s best teams. They were 10 minutes away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead and pushing a major Stanley Cup favorite to the brink of elimination. Then it all just went away, and now they find themselves in a fight where they have to win two out of the next three games. They have overcome the odds all postseason, and they might have to do it again here.
CANADIENS VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (Series tied 2-2) – series livestream link
Game 1: Golden Knights 4, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2
Game 3: Canadiens 3, Golden Knights 2 (OT)
Game 4: Golden Knights 2, Canadiens 1 (OT)
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)