The Montreal Canadiens continue to defy the odds, exceed expectations, and shock everyone in the hockey world.
The team almost nobody thought would reach the 2021 Stanley Cup Finals is now just two wins away from reaching the NHL's grandest stage.
The Canadiens staged a stunning comeback victory and overtime win at Centre Bell in Montreal on Friday night, winning the game 3-2. The upset gives the Canadiens a 2 games to 1 lead in the best-of-seven series which resumes on Sunday evening at 5 pm EST.
As for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, they've been here before. The series favourites who were graded as high as -535 to advance over Montreal are down by a game with four left to play. That means they need to win 3 of the next four.
The Golden Knights were taken to the limit in Round 1, ultimately defeating the Minnesota Wild 4 games to 3. Then, Las Vegas was down 0-2 in the Colorado Avalanche series and were behind by 2 goals in Game 3 before roaring back and winning that game, then going on a four-game tear which resulted in LVGN making it to the semi-finals. Now, they're down by a game in Round 3. This is becoming an all-too familiar pattern. We shall see of the Golden Knights can flip on the switch, turn on their offense, and advance after being behind once again.
Game 3 was wildly unpredictable, and frankly a shocker in the way it ended. The Golden Knights dominated the ice for nearly three full periods, outshooting the Canadiens decisively 45-27. They were up 2-1 and appeared headed for a win when in the closing minutes. That's when Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury uncharacteristically floundered with the puck in front of his own net and gave Montreal a tying goal when the puck bounced off his skate. Newly energized, the Canadiens then whipped the stunned Golden Knights in overtime.
Once again, oddsmakers and the betting public don't believe in Montreal. Disrespected in each series, and every playoff game, the Habs are sizable underdogs – even at home – once again. Here are the latest odds from SPREADS.CA, Canada's leading sports-betting website:
Fleury's gaffe in Game 3 has garnered much of the public's attention, but the far bigger issue for Las Vegas in this series has been weak production from the offense, particularly their forwards. Only two of the Golden Knights’ eight goals through three games have come from forwards. Mattias Janmark scored in Game 1, and Nicolas Roy scored in Game 3. That's it. So, what happened to William Karlsson, Max Pacioretty, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Tuch, and Mark Stone? All five of those forwards have been held without a goal through three games. Defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, who has been red hot in this series, is the lone bright spot for the Golden Knights.
Meanwhile, the Canadiens' defence will continue being tested. Carey Price defending the net has been exceptional in the playoffs. He's now a perfect 18-0 in games when the Canadiens score at least three goals. Price stopped 43 shots in Game 3, and looked like he can carry this team, even when the Canadiens aren't producing shots or goals. Price now has a 2.10 GAA and a .932 save percentage through 14 games in this year's playoffs.
One intangible for Sunday's game: The Canadiens won’t have Dominique Ducharme on the bench for the rest of the series. Montreal’s head coach tested positive for COVID prior to Game 3. That meant Luke Richardson makes decisions until Ducharme is able to return, which only happens if Montreal advances in this series.
Prediction: Count on the Golden Knights to apply more pressure and keep the puck in the Canadiens' zone. However, Montreal has somehow found a way to frustrate the Golden Knights and their forwards, and that success should continue. With the playoff intensity turned up a notch, and Fleury likely to be on a mission to rebound from the disaster of the previous game, goals should be scarce. The total on this game is now 5.5, shaded heavily to the UNDER. Even with the high lay price, there's value in the UNDER here since all three games have seen 5 games or fewer.
Final Score Forecast: Las Vegas 2, Montreal 1 (UNDER 5.5)