Monday's NHL playoffs: Vegas opens Stanley Cup semifinal with 4-1 win over Montreal

Associated Press

Las Vegas — Shea Theodore had a goal and an assist, Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves and the Vegas Golden Knights beat the Montreal Canadiens 4-1 in the first game of the Stanley Cup semifinal.

Vegas’ fifth-straight victory in the playoffs ended Montreal’s postseason win streak at seven. Game 2 is Wednesday night.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez (23) celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period.

Fleury, whose 90th career playoff win leaves him two shy of tying Grant Fuhr for third place all-time, has now allowed two or fewer goals in nine of his 13 playoff appearances this season.

Alec Martinez, Mattias Janmark, and Nick Holden also scored for the Golden Knights, who were vividly fueled by an announced crowd of 17,884 glow-stick waving fans.

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Rookie Cole Caufield scored his first career playoff goal for Montreal, while goaltender Carey Price made 26 saves.

It marked Montreal’s first game in the United States since March 7, 2020, when it visited the Florida Panthers. It was also the Canadiens’ first game with more than 2,500 fans in attendance since March 10, 2020, when they hosted the Nashville Predators in front of 21,021 fans inside Bell Centre.

Montreal came out swinging, literally, with an introduction to old-school, Original Six physicality. Looking to establish their presence, and show no signs of intimidation of the highest remaining seed in the postseason, the Canadiens pushed and shoved their way into Game 1.

Alexander Romanov opted to flatten Alex Pietrangelo, who was streaking into the offensive zone, rather than play the puck. Brendan Gallagher crowded Fleury upon stoppage, prompting the Vezina Trophy candidate to pop up in retaliation mode. Corey Perry exchanged words with former Montreal captain Max Pacioretty just before a faceoff, then gave him an extra shove when the puck dropped. Then it was Brett Kulak and Pietrangelo getting tangled up after a whistle.

It took a couple of hard hits of their own, but the Golden Knights muscled up with a rugged shift midway through the opening period that led to a draw in their offensive zone. Chandler Stephenson won the faceoff to the left of Price, with the puck ending up with Brayden McNabb, who found Theodore, who proceeded to launch a rocket from the blue line to give Vegas a 1-0 lead.

Looking as if he was going to tee off from the point early in the second period, Theodore drew back his stick to pull Price toward the front of the crease, then dished to his right, where Martinez was in position with a wide-eyed look for a one-timer.

The Canadiens finally scored when Caufield, who was given the Hobey Baker Award as the top collegiate player in April, snapped home a power-play rebound from the left circle, catching Fleury out of position after an initial save.

Janmark put home a rebound 53 seconds later, pushing Vegas’ lead back to two goals, 3-1.

With a thunderous chant of “Fleury’s better!!!” reverberating behind Perry, Reilly Smith sent a gorgeous pass through the zone to Holden, who fired a wrist shot blocker side to put Vegas ahead 4-1 midway through the third period.

It marked the first time this postseason a team got three goals from defensemen in a single game.

Teams that win Game 1 are 108-50 (.684) winning a best-of-7 NHL semifinals series.

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Predators' Rinne wins Clancy Trophy for leading on, off ice

Nashville Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne has won the King Clancy Memorial Trophy that annually honors an NHL player for leading on the ice and off it with humanitarian work.

The league announced Monday night that the National Hockey League Foundation is giving Rinne $25,000 to donate to a charity or charities. New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban and San Jose Sharks forward Kurtis Gabriel were finalists and each will receive $5,000 to donate.

The 38-year-old Rinne has 369 victories since making his debut during the 2005-06 season. The three-time NHL All-Star won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top goaltender in 2018.

His charitable work includes forming — along with former teammate Shea Weber — the 365 Pediatric Cancer Fund that raises money for cancer research at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt.

Rinne also has an affiliation with Best Buddies, a nonprofit that advocates for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Finnish player also supports Make-A-Wish and the Peterson Foundation for Parkinson’s, and he has been a part of charitable initiatives during the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and deputy commissioner Bill Daly led a committee of senior league executives that chose the winner after each team nominated a player for the award.