Lehner shines as Golden Knights beat Canadiens in OT, tie series

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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.

[NBC 2021 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

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.

But Brayden McNabb was able to sneak a shot through Carey Price with less than 10 minutes to play in regulation to tie the game, setting the stage for Roy’s overtime goal.

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.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

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)

*if necessary

Canadiens-Golden Knights stream – Game 4 on NBCSN

Canadiens-Golden Knights stream
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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2021 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Sunday’s Game 4 between the Montreal Canadiens and Vegas Golden Knights. Canadiens-Golden Knights stream coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN and Peacock. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

After a scoreless first period, Vegas (Nic Roy) and Montreal (Cole Caufield) traded goals within 38 seconds of each other early in the second period. The Golden Knights regained the lead just 2:22 into the third period when Alex Pietrangelo snuck a wrist shot past Carey Price. Vegas couldn’t hold the lead though, as Marc-Andre Fleury misplayed the puck behind his net, allowing Montreal’s Josh Anderson to tap in the tying goal with 1:55 left in regulation. Anderson won the game with his second goal of the night off a pass from Paul Byron just under 13 minutes into the overtime to give Montreal a 2-1 series lead.

Montreal played the game without interim head coach Dominique Ducharme behind the bench after Ducharme tested positive for COVID-19. On Friday, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin said that Ducharme was resting at home and doing fine. Bergevin said the Canadiens have been in contact with the NHL and the Quebec health department to determine how long he will need to be away from the team.

The Golden Knights’ power-play woes continued Friday night as Vegas went 0-for-4 with the man advantage. Vegas has not scored on the power play in five straight games, going 0-for-12 in that stretch (0-for-10 in this series).

[PRE-GAME COVERAGE BEGINS AT 7:30 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

WHAT: Vegas Golden Knights at Montreal Canadiens
WHERE: Bell Centre
WHEN: Sunday, June 20, 7:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN / Peacock
ON THE CALL: John Forslund, Joe Micheletti, Pierre McGuire
LIVE STREAM: 
You can watch the Canadiens-Golden Knights stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

CANADIENS VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (MTL leads 2-1) – 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: 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)

*if necessary

MONDAY’S NHL PLAYOFF SCHEDULE

Game 5: Islanders at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (Series tied 2-2) – NBCSN / Peacock (livestream)

After Fleury’s huge mistake, Lehner likely Game 4 starter for Golden Knights

After Fleury's big mistake, Lehner likely Game 4 starter for Golden Knights
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Marc-Andre Fleury can still laugh off the enormous Game 3 mistake that allowed the Canadiens to push the Golden Knights to overtime. But he’ll need to laugh from the bench.

In a decision that’s stunning yet perhaps also quite understandable, it looks like the Golden Knights will start Robin Lehner over Fleury against the Canadiens in Game 4 on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN / Peacock).

It’s important to note that Peter DeBoer can be cagey about his starting goalies. Perhaps there’s a chance that he flips the script again, instead giving Marc-Andre Fleury the start over Lehner in Game 4 after all.

But key signs point to Lehner as the Game 4 starter. So let’s look at this bold decision from the perspective of both goalies, and the Golden Knights.

Game 3 was just one of Marc-Andre Fleury’s memorable flubs

If you’ve followed Marc-Andre Fleury’s career, especially through the highs and lows of his Penguins tenure, then you were far less surprised by his stunning Game 3 mistake. You might even chuckle at the mistake being labeled “uncharacteristic” of Fleury.

Yes, it’s harsh for someone to put together a “Marc-Andre Fleury fail compilation,” but MAF sometimes evokes Patrick Roy in that his worst moments are almost as dramatic as his greatest triumphs.

We’ve seen Marc-Andre Fleury go through playoff crises of confidence. There was even a point where Mario Lemieux personally gave MAF a pep talk when things were really unraveling.

But the lows are also part of what makes the highs so inspiring as Fleury keeps beating the odds in Vegas.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 schedule, TV info]

If the Golden Knights indeed start Lehner in Game 4 over Fleury, it could be an opportunity for people to revisit the drama of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sure, Fleury made an enormous mistake on that 2-2 goal. But did that self-inflicted wound open the door for Allan Walsh to dust off that Photoshop of a sword in Fleury’s back?

As much as Fleury’s Golden Knights teammates stood up for him after that 2-2 goal gaffe, Peter DeBoer acknowledged the obvious after Game 3.

“Those type of events are tough to recover from,” DeBoer said Danny Webster. “I didn’t think we were poor in overtime but there’s no doubt that carried over”

Hmm, sort of sounds like a coach mulling over starting Lehner instead of Fleury in Game 4, huh? At least in hindsight?

It also inspires some questions about Fleury’s future with the Golden Knights, especially if the Canadiens win this series. After all, Fleury is entering a contract year, and Vegas reportedly shopped him around last offseason.

How much of a shame would it be if that mistake reverberates as one of the last things Fleury does as a member of the Golden Knights? Here’s hoping for a happier situation — whether Vegas advances past Montreal or not.

With MAF, good outweighs the bad — just less so recently

Again, Fleury made a big mistake, and a pivotal one at that. With Carey Price performing on an essentially perfect level, it’s hard to overstate the impact of such a mistake.

Even so, the bigger picture of Fleury with the Golden Knights is that the good heavily outweighs the bad. That’s especially true this season; he’s a Vezina Trophy finalist, and has been electric during most of the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Then again, the Golden Knights can argue that Lehner should start over Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 4 for more than just that mistake.

So far in the Canadiens – Golden Knights series, Fleury sports a more earthbound .911 save percentage. By no means is that humiliating, but with Carey Price operating at such a high level (.925 save percentage vs. Golden Knights; .932 during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs), Vegas might need maximum efficiency.

Game 4 a tough ask for Lehner, even beyond Fleury comparisons

And, that’s where Robin Lehner comes in.

If you worry about rust, then you should worry about Lehner in Game 4. So far during the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs, Lehner appeared once — when the Avalanche shellacked a fatigued Golden Knights team in Game 1 of the Second Round.

That Game 1 happened on May 30. Before that, Lehner made his last regular-season start on May 10.

Even beyond that, it’s been a bumpy season for Lehner. Due to health issues, he played just 19 regular-season games, managing a .913 save percentage. That’s fine, but he wasn’t exactly forcing MAF from the Vegas net.

Rather than easing in, Lehner gets thrown into Game 4 where the Golden Knights trail the Canadiens 2-1 in the series. And, yeah, there hasn’t been much margin for error.

A style change

When you zoom in, the Golden Knights gamble with Lehner over Fleury in Game 4 considering that he’s coming in cold.

Lehner’s most memorable moments during the playoffs have been that blowout loss, some tweets, and having some hat trick fun. His most lasting regular season moment arguably involved criticizing COVID protocol.

Zoom out and consider their contrasting styles, though.

In a league of largely cookie-cutter goalies, “The Flower” is a rare butterfly. He makes flamboyant saves, showing off electric lateral movement. Sometimes that aggressiveness can backfire. Like, say, when that pokecheck attempt goes awry:

 

Now, it’s perfectly possible Paul Byron scores on Lehner there. Chances are, it would have been in a different way.

Lehner is a huge goalie, and when he’s keyed-in, he can use his massive frame in an intimidating way. For his size, he’s athletic, but Lehner is likely to be more “self-contained” than Fleury.

For better or worse (for better and worse?), you’re less likely to see the double-edged sword of frequent goalie puck handling.

To beat the Canadiens in Game 4, the Golden Knights need to do more than get the starting goalie decision right. Lehner could thrive, and they might still lose. Vegas could also suddenly outscore its problems, maybe after solving its power play.

But no doubt, this is a huge decision, and one that adds a little sizzle to a meaty series.

CANADIENS VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (MTL leads 2-1) – 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: 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)

*if necessary

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Josh Anderson sends Canadiens to stunning series lead over Golden Knights

Canadiens-Golden Knights stream
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Josh Anderson had scored one goal in his last 24 games. Then he scored the two most important goals of his Canadiens career.

Without their head coach due to COVID regulations, the Canadiens took a 2-1 series lead on the Golden Knights with a 3-2 stunning overtime win on Friday night. It took the most unlikely of circumstances to get there, and Anderson was involved the entire way.

The Canadiens are now 9-0 when scoring at least twice in any game during the postseason. They are also undefeated in overtime.

The Golden Knights, though, led for most of the game and the Canadiens never held a lead until Anderson’s winner.

Vegas was poised to take the series lead on the road before goalie Marc-Andre Fleury badly mishandled the puck with 2:02 left in the game. He hit the puck off his skate, and it slid right to Anderson who easily backhanded it into the net to tie the game.

“It was an unfortunate bounce, there’s nothing you can do about it,” Vegas forward Mark Stone said after the game. “Fleury has been great all year. It was one mistake and we needed to bail him out, and we didn’t.”

In overtime, Paul Byron found him again on a near 2-on-0 with 12:53 left in the frame, and Anderson beat Fleury again.

Getting there wasn’t pretty for the Habs.

The Canadiens had fired just three shots after one period. The Golden Knights had already accumulated 17.

The Golden Knights did strike first, a goal from Nicolas Roy, but it didn’t last long.

On a breakaway just 39 seconds later, Cole Caufield tallied the second goal of his playoff career to tie it 1-1. He took a pass from Nick Suzuki and settled it, which was Suzuki’s first point against the team that traded him for Max Pacioretty.

Even with a score knotted up again, the Golden Knights continued to pummel Carey Price, outshooting the Habs 25-5 midway through the second frame.

The Golden Knights offensive blue line run continued in the third period, though, as Alex Piertrangelo used a quick wrister through traffic to finally solve Price with 17:37 left in the game.

It was Pietrangelo’s 11th point of the postseason, trailing just William Karlsson‘s 13 for team scoring. He has eight points in his last seven games as well.

None of that mattered for the Golden Knights, who now find themselves trailing in Montreal, and find themselves in a position where they might go home facing elimination.

The Golden Knights also failed to capitalize on the power play, going 0-for-4, a point of note for Stone postgame.

“It’s about time as a group we take a little more pride in playing on the power play,” he said.

Vegas outplayed the Canadiens for the vast majority of the contest and finished with the 45-27 shots advantage. Price finished the night with 43 saves.

Right before the play that led to Byron and Anderson’s break in, Corey Perry was tripped up by Vegas’ Shea Theodore and it went uncalled. Perhaps the missed call finally worked out during the inconsistencies this postseason.

Either way, Anderson was in a position to win it after getting the monkey off his back in the most bizarre of ways at the end of the third period, and the Canadiens — the team with the lowest point total of the postseason — is a win away from forcing the team tied for the most points to face elimination.

CANADIENS VS. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (MTL leads 2-1) – 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: 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)

*if necessary

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

Net work: Fleury and Grubauer face off in series, for Vezina

DENVER — On one end of the ice will be Philipp Grubauer, a recently named Vezina Trophy finalist.

At the other end will be Marc-Andre Fleury, who’s up for the same award.

Now that’s quite a goaltender face-off for Game 2 on Wednesday in a second-round series between Colorado and Vegas.

Grubauer, the Avalanche netminder who made 24 saves during a 7-1 win in Game 1, and Fleury, his Vegas rival who didn’t play in the series opener, were named two of the finalists Tuesday for an award that goes to the league’s top goaltender. The other nominee is Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, the 2019 winner.

“Don’t think that happens too many times,” Grubauer said of a pair of Vezina candidates meeting up in round two. “I’m really looking forward to it.”

Same with a well-rested Fleury. The Golden Knights went with Robin Lehner in Game 1 to give Fleury a breather after the short turnaround from a grueling seven-game series against Minnesota in which Fleury played all seven games.

Fleury is expected to start even if coach Pete DeBoer didn’t officially declare him the starter, only saying: “It’s probably obvious what the answer is.”

“I feel bad that Robin was throw into that one, into the lions, where we didn’t have our best game there and they had their best one,” Fleury said of Game 1. “It’s not fun. But for me personally, it was good to have a few days, rest the legs a bit, take it easy.”

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2021 Second Round schedule, TV info]

Grubauer has long been a fan of Fleury, who’s currently third on the all-time wins list. His 492 wins in the regular season trail only Patrick Roy (551) and Martin Brodeur (691), two of the goalies Fleury idolized growing up. Fleury, whose nickname is “Flower,” has never won a Vezina Trophy.

“He’s an unbelievable goalie,” said Grubauer, who hoisted a Stanley Cup in 2018 while with Washington. “Always watched Flower. It’s kind of fun for me to think of him down at the other end and seeing him there.”

Grubauer’s vision is focused on victories, not the Vezina. Still, the honor means a lot.

“I never thought in my life I would be part of that group, sitting on that table with Vasi and Flower,” the 29-year-old Grubauer said. “It’s not only an honor for myself but represents the organization really well.”

Grubauer is coming off a regular season in which he tied for the league lead in shutouts (seven) and was second in wins (30). He’s taken his game to another level so far in this postseason, with a 5-0 mark, 1.60 goals-against average and a .941 save percentage.

“Exact personality for the guy you want in there every night,” Avalanche backup goaltender Devan Dubnyk said. “I like that he’s got a ton of tools and able to break out and do some crazy acrobatic moves if need be.”

The 36-year-old Fleury combined with Lehner to win the William M. Jennings Trophy as the goaltenders on the team that allowed the fewest goals throughout the regular season. Fleury also ranked ranked third in the NHL in wins (26), goals-against average (1.98), save percentage (.928) and shutouts (six).

“He’s a class act. That’s probably the best way I can put it,” DeBoer said. “A true professional. A class person. Shows up every day with a smile on his face and has the most energy in the room despite the fact he’s the oldest guy in the room.”

The big thing for Fleury and the Golden Knights will be neutralizing the speed of the Avalanche, especially Colorado’s top line that features Nathan MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. The trio combined for five goals and three assists in Game 1.

Learn anything about them watching from the bench?

“A little bit,” said Fleury, who won three Stanley Cups with Pittsburgh. “We knew who the big guys are and how quick of a team they are.”

NOTES: Vegas forward Ryan Reaves will serve the first of a two-game suspension Wednesday for his roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct on Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves. … The Avs will be without Nazem Kadri for a fourth time as he serves an eight-game suspension for his hit on St. Louis Blues defenseman Justin Faulk in a first-round series. … Vegas F Mattias Janmark is day-to-day, DeBoer said, after leaving Game 1 following a hit from Graves.