The Montreal Canadiens had another huge first period in Game 2. This time, though, they capitalized on their opportunities and put the Vegas Golden Knights on their heels. It got dicey for a while, but a 3-2 victory on Wednesday night sent the Canadiens home with a break-even trip to Vegas. As we all know, that’s about a best-case scenario.

The Bell Centre won’t be nearly as full as T-Mobile Arena, but the Golden Knights will be playing their first game in the Eastern Time Zone when they step on the ice for the 8 p.m. ET puck drop on Friday night. Even with the long travel and the even series, Vegas is still -160 at Bookmaker Sportsbook for Game 3 with a total of 5.

Vegas Golden Knights

The Golden Knights really did play with fire in Game 1. Montreal came out with a huge first period effort, but trailed 1-0 after the first 20 minutes. In that period, Montreal had an Expected Goals For edge of 1.65 to 0.28 at 5-v-5. The Canadiens had 11 scoring chances to four for Vegas and seven high-danger chances to just one for the Golden Knights.

In Game 2, things were eerily similar. Montreal had an xGF advantage of 1.33 to 0.23. This time, though, instead of trailing 1-0, the Canadiens led 2-0. They capitalized on their chances, of which they had a 14-4 edge in scoring chances and an 8-1 advantage in high-danger chances. Vegas attempted to mount a comeback, but could not dig out of the 3-0 hole.

Obviously getting off to a better start in the first period will be a popular talking point in the room prior to Game 3. It may be tough with the long travel across three time zones and the much more restrictive environment in Canada with regards to COVID protocols. That being said, this now becomes purely a business trip for Vegas, as their movements will be limited and it will solely be about winning these two games to have a chance at ending the series in Game 5.

It was a bit of a disappointing game up front for the Knights. William Carrier had another excellent game, but a lot of the quality scoring chances came from defensemen again. The Knights have effectively gotten their blueliners into the mix in the offensive zone, but it was another weak game for Mark Stone and another game in which Jonathan Marchessault was virtually invisible. The Knights need more from their top forwards.

Marc-Andre Fleury has stopped 48 of 52 shots in the series so far and 324 of 351 in the playoffs for a .923 SV%. His 1.92 GAA is strong and his play has been a steadying presence for the Golden Knights in these playoffs.

Montreal Canadiens

Well, Montreal has proved capable of hanging with the Golden Knights to this point. Despite being outplayed for the final 40 of Game 1, the Canadiens have had two of the best periods in the series so far and were able to ride the wave of that start in Game 2 to a split in Sin City. There were a lot of questions as to whether or not Montreal would be able to keep up, having played in a weak North Division all year, but the Habs have proven to be a worthy foe for the Golden Knights.

Now that they are back on home ice, they’ll be away from the loud crowd in Las Vegas. They’ll also have the last line change, which could prove to be very important. Montreal won seven in a row prior to the Game 1 loss and had not trailed at any point in those seven games. They did not trail in Game 2 either.

The return of Jeff Petry was huge for the Canadiens in Game 2. Petry logged 20:47 in his return and had an assist and a couple of shots. Montreal had real problems exiting the zone in Game 1, but Petry was helpful in that regard in Game 2 and also had a couple of blocked shots.

Carey Price played well, as he stopped all five high-danger shots against and only allowed two goals in the game. He was tested extensively, especially in the third period when Vegas had 17 shots on goal at 5-v-5. It was a strong effort from Price, especially after giving up four goals in Game 1. He helped preserve the lead and kept Vegas from getting back in the game until late.

Golden Knights vs. Canadiens Free Pick

Game 3 is a tough one to handicap. Once again, Vegas was the better team over the final 40, though it wasn’t nearly as lopsided as Game 1. The Golden Knights absolutely need to get off to a better first period start here and you have to think that will be a focal point, especially on the road. If Vegas can play from in front, they should stay in front, so with a better start expected here, I have to look at Vegas -160.

Pick: Vegas Golden Knights