The Montreal Canadiens got off to yet another good start against the Golden Knights in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup semifinals on Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
This time it resulted in a lead that would hold up en route to a 3-2 win that evened the best-of-seven series.
“You get that bounce early, you get that go-ahead goal and you get to play with the lead,” Canadiens forward Corey Perry said. “You’re not chasing the game. It just falls into place from there. I thought the guys responded well to keep that momentum and ride it.”
It’s been a trait of the Canadiens during a postseason run that sees them seeking a third-consecutive series upset.
Montreal improved to 9-1 when scoring first and is 0-3 when giving up the first goal during these playoffs. It’s also 6-0 when leading after two periods.
One of those losses came in Game 1 when the Canadiens trailed 1-0 after the first period despite outplaying the Knights by nearly every relevant measure.
First-period goals by Joel Armia and Tyler Toffoli were the rewards for the team’s early success Wednesday.
Toffoli’s goal extended his point streak to nine games, the longest in the postseason this year.
“I liked our start last game, too, and we had chances to score, but you have to give credit, and (Marc-Andre) Fleury made some big saves early on in Game 1 and kept it even,” Perry said. “Tonight, we got a bounce, and we rode that momentum.”
Goalie Carey Price was a big factor in the lead standing up.
He made 29 saves, several of the spectacular variety. The Canadiens endured a late onslaught from the Knights, who got within one goal with 5:14 remaining and turned up the pressure in search of an equalizer.
“We felt the pressure when they were trying to come back, but I thought we showed good composure,” coach Dominique Ducharme said. “I still think we can do a better job. We wanted to support the puck better. I think we did that tonight, and it paid off. I think we can do better on a few occasions managing the puck and we will do that.”
Price, whose best save of the game was a sliding denial of Alec Martinez at the doorstep in the second period, joked about how he was able to keep the puck out.
“I’m just using all of my extremities,” said Price, who was quick to cite his team’s willingness to put their bodies on the line as they racked up 53 hits and blocked 26 shots in displaying a noticeably more edge physically.
“These guys are out there paying the price every night,” he said. “It’s what the playoffs are all about, and you have to earn every victory. Every bruise is worth it at the end of the day.”
The Canadiens, who return home to host Game 3 on Friday night, were buoyed by the return of defenseman Jeff Petry after he missed the last two games.
Petry had an assist and a plus-1 rating in 20:47 of ice time in his return, though his impact may have been even greater.
“It’s a huge boost to our team,” said defenseman Joel Edmundson, who had two assists in the win. “He’s been our best defenseman all year, so you want a guy like that back as soon as you can.
“Definitely nice to see him back out there.”
Petry had been listed with a hand injury, but also played through broken blood vessels in his eyes.
“His eyes have looked like that for a week now. Kind of scary, but I don’t think it affected him tonight,” Edmundson said.