Updated June 18, 2021 - 10:21 pm
Marc-Andre Fleury searched for a way to take out his frustration but stopped himself from smashing his stick on the ice.
The Golden Knights goalie faked like he was going to fling the paddle into the glass and settled for a hard swat across his leg pads as punishment.
Fleury’s fumble trying to handle the puck in the final two minutes led to the tying goal Friday, and the Knights went on to lose 3-2 to the Canadiens in overtime in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup semifinals at Bell Centre in Montreal.
The Knights trail 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, with Game 4 scheduled for Sunday.
“He’s stood on his head for us all season,” Knights alternate captain Reilly Smith said of Fleury. “Goals like that are going to happen with bad bounces and ice when you’re playing into the summer. It’s not a really big deal. We just have to move forward. We should’ve done a better job in overtime closing it out.”
The Knights played without first-line center Chandler Stephenson (upper body) for the second straight game and were less than two minutes from regaining home-ice advantage after defenseman Alex Pietrangelo’s go-ahead goal early in the third period.
But Fleury’s gaffe helped gift-wrap the underdog Canadiens their second straight win in the series and ninth in the past 10 games.
“I loved our game,” coach Pete DeBoer said. “If we can play like that for the next week, I have a hard time believing they’re going to beat us two more times.”
Fleury, who was appearing in his 161st career postseason game to tie Ed Belfour for third place on the all-time list, was strong all night handling the puck and starting the Knights’ breakout.
But the Vezina Trophy finalist and Conn Smythe Trophy candidate lost control behind the net after a hard dump-in, and Josh Anderson swooped in to score the tying goal with 1:55 remaining in the third period.
“Fleury’s played great for us all year,” Knights captain Mark Stone said. “It’s one mistake. We had to bail him out. We did not play the way we played for the first 60 of the game in overtime.”
Anderson tallied the winner for the Canadiens with 7:07 remaining in overtime. The Knights were caught in a long line change, and Montreal quickly transitioned after a turnover in the neutral zone.
Anderson knocked the puck out of the air after crossing the blue line and buried the return pass from Paul Byron for his second of the game after not scoring since Game 1 of the first round May 20.
The Canadiens improved to 4-0 in overtime during the playoffs, while the Knights fell to 1-3.
”We can take some confidence out of this game,” Anderson said. “It’s not the start that we wanted in the first couple periods, but when everything was going tough, we just try to be physical and and get on the forecheck as much as we can. You started to see that more later in the third period. And then, obviously, in overtime we were all over them.”
Pietrangelo, who had both goals in the Game 2 loss, continued his stellar play with the go-ahead goal early in the third period. He jumped into the rush and beat Canadiens goalie Carey Price with a wrist shot from the high slot 2:22 into the period.
The Knights finished with a 45-27 advantage in shots on goal, but paid for an inept 0-for-4 showing on the power play.
The Canadiens played without interim coach Dominique Ducharme, who tested positive for COVID-19 and was placed into league protocol. Assistant Luke Richardson took over duties on the bench, and Montreal was on its heels early.
After a rare fast start in which the Knights outshot the Canadiens 17-3 in the first period with nothing to show for it, their pressure finally paid off 3:16 into the second period.
Canadiens forward Eric Staal tried to start to the breakout up the middle but instead coughed up the puck to Nicolas Roy. The native of Amos, Quebec, cashed in with his third goal of the postseason.
It was one of 25 giveaways the Knights forced from Montreal.
But the lead lasted 38 seconds, as Nick Holden’s shot from the point was blocked by Nick Suzuki and the Knights were caught up ice. Suzuki found Cole Caufield ahead of the pack, and the 20-year-old rookie beat Fleury high to the glove side on the breakaway.
“I don’t think there’s any emotional damage,” Stone said. “We liked the way we played. We really do. We played a great 60 minutes. We have to capitalize on scoring chances. We had lots of looks, just need to bear down.”
Canadiens lead 2-1
Game 1: Knights 4, Canadiens 1
Game 2: Canadiens 3, Knights 2
Game 3: Canadiens 3, Knights 2, OT
Game 4: 5 p.m. Sunday, Montreal (NBCSN)
Game 5: 6 p.m. Tuesday, T-Mobile Arena (NBCSN)
x-Game 6: 5 p.m. Thursday, Montreal (USA)
x-Game 7: 5 p.m. June 26, T-Mobile Arena (NBCSN)