The Montreal Canadiens defeated the host Vegas Golden Knights 4-1 in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals on Tuesday at T-Mobile Arena.
A pair of even-strength goals from Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Eric Staal and a Cole Caufield power-play tally put Montreal up 3-0 with 10:11 left in the second period.
Max Pacioretty got Vegas on the board at 4:09 of the third period, but Canadiens goaltender Carey Price shined with 26 saves on 27 shots. Canadiens center Nick Suzuki, who also had two assists, added an empty-net goal to close the scoring with 1:06 left in the game.
Montreal took a 3-2 series lead in the best-of-seven matchup.
Canadiens C Nick Suzuki: 1 G, 2 A, +2, 2 SOG
Canadians RW Tyler Toffoli: 2 A, +2, 4 SOG
Canadiens G Carey Price: 26 SV
Golden Knights LW Max Pacioretty: 1 G, 3 SOG
Golden Knights D Shea Theodore: +1, 2 SOG
Golden Knights RW Reilly Smith: 6 SOG
Habs Inch Closer to Cup
It's not uncommon for lower-seeded teams to make deep postseason runs in the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the Canadiens' march toward the trophy has been something else.
The Canadiens won just 24 of 56 regular-season games. Their 59 points were the lowest among all 16 playoff participants. They finished in the bottom half of the league in goals scored (17th) and goals allowed (18th).
Naturally, they were widely expected to bow out quickly, but now they're one win away from the Stanley Cup Final.
They're up three games to two on a Golden Knights team that tied for the NHL lead with 82 points, and they're doing it without a dominant goal or point scorer. It helps to have a brick wall in net in Price, but the Canadiens continue to grind out wins and march toward history.
On Tuesday, Montreal scored an incredible road win to put itself in position to secure a Cup berth at home. The Canadiens opened the scoring on a breakout. Josh Anderson's shot was stopped, but Kotkaniemi was right there for the putback.
In the second period, Staal found himself in the right place at the right time when he received a perfect pass from Suzuki for the second (and game-winning) tally.
The slot was the Canadiens' friend on this night, as Caufield fired home another goal there after some hard work (and a good pass) from Corey Perry.
From there, Price made sure Vegas didn't make a comeback. The Golden Knights got one back courtesy of Pacioretty and nearly scored a second, but Price shut the door for good.
Now Montreal goes back home, one game away from making its first Stanley Cup in 27 years.
Vegas' Offense Struggles Again
The Golden Knights' season is on the brink because the offense has gone ice cold, scoring just seven goals in four games.
That's a fairly obvious observation to make, but the bigger problem is that five of those tallies are from two players (Alex Pietrangelo with three and Nicolas Roy with two). Brayden McNabb got one, and so did Pacioretty.
For those scoring at home, that means Vegas forwards have only scored two goals in the last four games. It also means that the top 10 goal scorers on the team have combined to score just once since Game 1.
The only way Vegas is going to win that way is if Marc-Andre Fleury plays lights out and the defense follows suit, but Montreal's balanced offense is finding a way to get on the scoreboard.
The player to watch is Mark Stone, who had a team-high 61 points during the regular season. He has zero through five games against the Habs, and now time is of the essence with a do-or-die Game 6.
Vegas scored the third-most goals per game this year, so it's possible the floodgates open and the Golden Knights return to form. However, there's very little wiggle room left, and now they're headed to a raucous Bell Centre to save the season.
Montreal will host Vegas for Game 6 on Thursday at 8 p.m. ET at the Bell Centre. The Canadiens will advance to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 1993 with a victory.