Can the New York Islanders take a 2-0 lead on the Lightning, or will Tampa Bay find its game to even up the series? Meanwhile, a Canadian NHL team played in the United States for the first time in 15 months. The Montreal Canadiens came out with a strong first period before seeming outmatched by the Vegas Golden Knights thereafter. How competitive can the Canadiens keep this series?
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Game 2: New York Islanders at Tampa Bay Lightning | 8 p.m. ET (Isles lead 1-0)
If there are still skeptics of the Islanders out there, maybe Game 1 converted them. This series is rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals, and the Islanders came into the defending champs’ building and took care of business. New York had just one giveaway in the 2-1 win, and limited the Lightning to just two power plays; that’s critical, because Tampa Bay has scored 17 of its 39 playoff goals so far on the man advantage.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, lamented its own mental mistakes. The Lightning would like to clean up a few areas, including faceoffs, which the Isles dominated in Game 1, winning 28 of 46 (60.8%). Over the last two postseasons, the Lightning have gone 10-0 following a playoff loss.
“It’s easy to panic and kind of feel like we really, really need to win the next game,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “We want to win the next game, obviously, but you just have to go out there and play your game. You can’t be scared going out. You have to embrace that challenge.”
About last night
Vegas Golden Knights 4, Montreal Canadiens 1 (Knights lead 1-0)
The energy at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas throughout these playoffs has been incredible — though it was a bit jarring for the Canadiens, who haven’t played a game outside of the country in more than a year.
First time a Canadian NHL team has played in the United States in 15 months.
And the Habs have to come out and play in front of this. Talk about a shock to the system 😳 pic.twitter.com/DBy3Fw5ZY1
— Emily Kaplan (@emilymkaplan) June 15, 2021
Marc-Andre Fleury came up huge in the first period, as the Habs came out hot, dominating with a 6-1 edge in high-danger chances. “I thought in that first period we showed we could play with them,” Carey Price said. But Vegas struck first on a goal by Shea Theodore, just the third goal allowed by Montreal in the first period this postseason (they had previously outscored opponents 10-2 in the opening frame). It also snapped Montreal’s wild streak of time spent without trailing at 447 minutes, eight seconds.
As it did against Colorado, Vegas played a heavy game in the neutral zone, which made it hard for Montreal to get clean entries. “Penalties really killed our momentum and our rhythm,” said Canadiens coach Dominique Ducharme. The good news for the Habs is that Jeff Petry (who sustained a hand injury in Game 3 of the previous round) practiced with the team on Monday morning, and could return sooner rather than later in this series. “He’s a key piece to our team, our best defenseman all year, and great on the power play too,” said Joel Edmundson, his regular partner. “We’re definitely missing him out there, but hopefully he’ll come back soon.” Full recap
Three stars of the night
Marc-Andre Fleury, G, Vegas Golden Knights
If Fleury didn’t come up with a huge key saves in the first period — which the Habs actually controlled — this likely would have been a different outcome. Fleury finished saving 29 of 30 shots for his 90th career playoff win.
Marc-Andre Fleury has been tested early, including with this save on Josh Anderson #vegasborn pic.twitter.com/bGaR06GG03
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) June 15, 2021
Shea Theodore, D, Vegas Golden Knights
Theodore was one of three Knights defensemen to score on Monday (alongside the suddenly red-hot Nick Holden and Alec Martinez) and added an assist. Vegas got six points from defensemen, with blueliners taking 18 of the team’s 30 shots.
Shea Theodore’s shot fake fools the Montreal defense so he sets up Alec Martinez for the go-ahead goal in the Golden Knights’ Game 1 victory.
Cole Caufield, F, Montreal Canadiens
The rookie scored his first-career playoff goal, which kept his No. 1 fan on social media feeling proud:
— JJ Watt (@JJWatt) June 15, 2021
Budding rivalry of the day
Montreal veteran forward Brendan Gallagher took a few runs at Marc-Andre Fleury early. He seemed to be getting under the goalie’s skin, as following one scrum Fleury took Gallagher’s helmet (which had fallen off) and chucked it toward the corner of the ice.
“I’ve faced him before, I know him well,” Fleury said postgame. “I knew it was going to come, I know it is going to keep coming. It’s part of the game, I don’t mind it.”
Celly of the day
Cole Caufield’s family reacts to his goal. #GoHabsGo
🎥 @NHLonNBCSports pic.twitter.com/lglREmcGlg
— BobbyLotsOfNumbers (@TheReplayGuy) June 15, 2021
The fact that Cole Caufield’s family could be at the game where he scores his first career playoff goal was cool. The fact that his brother is wearing a “Goal Caufield” T-shirt may be even better.
Due to border restrictions, this was also the first time Caufield’s family, who live in Wisconsin, were able to see Caufield play in an NHL game live.