The Golden Knights opened the Stanley Cup semifinals with defense leading the way to a 4-1 victory over the Montreal Canadiens at T-Mobile Arena.
After seeing the second-longest streak in NHL history of not trailing a postseason game snapped in the first period, the Canadiens also lost their seven-game winning streak with the loss to Vegas.
"Obviously to start a series you want to get out to a lead,” Vegas defenseman Nick Holden said. “I don’t think it’s going to change our game plan or how we prepare. We’re going to look at how the game went tonight, make sure that we’re ready for Game 2.”
"That’s the biggest thing in the playoffs is making sure that you’re not dwelling or looking too much at the game you just played and making sure that you’re ready for the next one.”
The momentum picked up in the packed arena, shortly after Shea Theodore’s one-timer from the blue line at 9:15 of the first period, to give the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead.
Montreal was called for a penalty late in the first period, then three more in the first half of the second, as the game shifted dramatically in favor of the Knights.
Theodore helped put the Knights ahead 2-0 in the second period when he was left uncovered in the slot and grabbed a centering feed from Reilly Smith. Instead of challenging Canadiens goalie Carey Price, Theodore faked a shot and slid a pass to Martinez in the right circle at 2:18.
"I was going to shoot it, but he was yelling at me pretty good,” Theodore said. “He was wide open, too, so that definitely helped.”
Later in the second, Montreal Rookie Cole Caufield recorded his first postseason goal and gave the Canadiens brief hope, only to have Mattias Janmark respond 53 seconds later to push the Vegas lead to 3-1.
In the third, the Golden Knights put the game away when Nick Holden extended the lead to 4-1. Reilly Smith added two assists in the game 1 victory.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 12 of his 28 saves in the first period, and the Canadiens generated little offense the rest of the way. It was Fleury’s 90th career postseason victory, two behind Grant Fuhr for third on the all-time list.
"All night, all series, all-season, these guys have been amazing,” Fleury said of his defensemen. “Blocking a lot of shots and helping me around the net for rebounds and clearing them away. It’s a big part of the game.”
The Knights stepped outside of the West Division for the first time this season and rolled to their fifth consecutive victory after an early feeling-out process.
Montreal and Vegas prepare for another face-off again Wednesday night for Game 2 of the semifinals.
"[Montreal] was impressive early. The way they were getting pucks and bodies to the net,” Vegas Head Coach Pete DeBoer said. “They’re a good hockey team. I like how we built our game tonight and I thought we controlled it over the last 40 minutes.”