Rolling the dice is something that often happens in Vegas for the “high rollers” at a crap table – but at a hockey game?
Yours truly wasn’t the only one that questioned the goaltending change that bench boss Peter DeBoer made when the Knights took to the ice; it was a shock even to the broadcast crew.
Craps is a game of chance and that is what we would see given the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury, the Vezina Trophy finalist on the bench for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Semi-Final match-up.
Instead DeBoer put Robin Lehner between the pipes and obviously had confidence in Lehner who had played only once in these playoffs which never went as well as he wanted.
While the idea of benching Fleury doesn’t always work; to coin a phrase “it’s all or nothing” and if you’re brave enough the change was a case of going all-in and benching your star goalie always has backfire potential, but starting Lehner was a diamond in the rough that came up a Full House.
To the surprise of many Lehner turned in a solid 27-save performance allowing only one goal that somehow kept them in the game until their offense eventually arrived on the double-decker bus.
Better late than never and for anyone to say this was an easy game, think twice as the officiating left a lot to be desired.
Confusion arose near the dying seconds of the second when “bedlam” broke out when you could see the game referee instruct the timekeeper to run the clock down to zero.
No penalties were assessed to either team which had everyone totally confused wondering where the consistency level is at these days?
Some have mentioned that it went the route of the dodo bird heading off to another casino to gamble and see if any calls would indeed be made.
If you were a youngster, growing up in a suburb or near Montreal, you only dreamed of playing on Canadiens’ ice.
Well dreams do indeed come true and such was the case Sunday night at the Bell Centre as Nicolas Roy got the O/T winner at 1:18 tying the best of seven series at two.
The moment was extra special for Roy who comes from Amos Quebec as his family was in attendance for the game.
After the game Vegas forward Max Pacioretty told the media “He’s been the No. 1 cheerleader on the team when he wasn’t playing, his positivity has rubbed off on us.”
He continued “For him to go in there tonight and be the player that we know he is, was huge for our team, and just so happy to see a guy like that get rewarded. He truly deserves it.”
It couldn’t have been easy for Lehner, considering not only the stakes of the game or how his last appearance went, but also just how little he’s played over the last month.
Game 4 was his second outing in only 41 days with his last game 21 days ago, in a 7-1 drubbing in the second round to the Av’s in Game 1.
We hear that he (Lehner) has been very supportive of his team and skated on the off days so as not to lose the rhythm for the series he might be thrown in knowing he only wants what’s best for the team.
Following the game Lehner told the media “It doesn’t matter for me and truly, in my heart, I don’t care if I’m on the bench or in the net, I’ll do my best for the team. I don’t care. I couldn’t care less. (Fleury) has been absolutely outstanding. He’s the reason why we’re here, along with a lot of the other guys. When you get a chance to come in and help, it’s great. You just do what you can for the team, no matter what position you’re in.”
Vegas coach Pete DeBoer said “getting Fleury rest was the biggest reason for starting Lehner, and that Fleury’s misplay in the third period of Game 3 played no role in the decision.”
Prior to the game, Fleury had started more games than any goalie other than Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy which DeBoer pointed out, Fleury is 10 years older than Vasilevskiy, but age is only a number
The Golden Knights are a team built from the ground up and are planning on playing a while longer, considering that the series is now tied at two.
Vegas has the luxury of giving Fleury a break in game four, which obviously worked well as they head home for game five.
Lehner made 27 saves in the victory, but two sequences keep the game within reach with the first coming in the opening period when he slid across the crease getting his pad on an Eric Staal tip-in attempt and the second was when when he gloved down Joel Armia’s rebound shot.
He said the latter was so close that he worried it crossed the red line.
Two periods later, Montreal had a 1-0 lead off of a Paul Byron breakaway and the Vegas offense was stuck in neutral.
The Knights finished with 18 shots through regulation, which tied a franchise-low for fewest shots through three periods in a playoff game, and zero high-danger scoring chances by Natural Stat Trick’s model, the first time that had ever happened.
The biggest save of the night came with 12:44 remaining in regulation when Canadiens’ rookie Cole Caufield worked a breakaway and could have ended the game only to be denied a five-hole attempt.
The save kept the game within a goal only to have Brayden McNabb tie it three minutes later where he mentioned after the game “There were multiple times he made big saves, especially in the first period.”
The Golden Knights made sure Lehner didn’t have to work in overtime, not allowing a Montreal shot and ending it 1:18 after the period started.
It added a storybook element that it was Roy, who was playing in his first postseason series in his home province of Quebec against the team he grew up watching.
His parents, sister and in-laws were among the 3,500 in the crowd to see his first career playoff game-winning goal
“I always dreamed about scoring at the Bell Centre,” Roy said. “Doing it in overtime, in the series there in the semifinals, it’s even better.”
The Golden Knights evened the series, surviving what some were calling it one of the worst ever offensive performances in team history thanks to no one other than their goalie.
Lehner said he took his own bus to arrive at the game four hours early to scroll through Twitter and use the negative messages as pregame fuel.
Lehner told the media after the game “Me and (Fleury) have gotten really close this year supporting each other and we don’t care about the noise.”
One can only think that the loss provides a template for game five in Vegas considering the fact the Canadians had 19 blocked shots as well as the 40 hits they managed to deliver against the explosive team from “Sin-City.”