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Golden Knights defensemen get offensive in Game 1 win against Canadiens

Combine for three goals, six points to open Semifinals

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

The Vegas Golden Knights defense generated much of the offense in their 4-1 victory against the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Semifinals at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.

Defensemen accounted for three of the Golden Knights' four goals, six of their 12 points and 18 of their 30 shots.

Shea Theodore, Alec Martinez and Nick Holden made Vegas the second team to have three defensemen score at least one goal in a game in the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Larry Murphy, Paul Stanton and Ulf Samuelsson scored for the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 5 of the 1991 Wales Conference Final.

Vegas has more goals (nine), assists (28) and points (37) from its defenseman than any other team in the playoffs.

"Our defense contributing offensively is something that's been part of our foundation all year," coach Peter DeBoer said. "We've relied on those guys to chip in offensively for us. They're a big part of our identity."

Video: Defensemen carry Golden Knights past Canadiens, 4-1

Theodore gave the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead at 9:15 of the first period, firing a hard shot from the left point through a screen. The first goal was important considering the Canadiens had gotten off to a good start and hadn't trailed for 447:08, the second-longest streak in NHL playoff history. (The 1959-60 Canadiens went 488:38 without trailing.)

Then Theodore set up Martinez to make it 2-0 at 2:18 of the second period. He faked a slap shot from the slot, then passed the puck to the right circle. Martinez one-timed it into the net as goalie Carey Price dived across. 

"I was going to shoot it, but he was yelling at me pretty good," said Theodore, who leads NHL defensemen in goals (12) and points (45) in the playoffs since he joined the Golden Knights in 2017-18. "He was wide open too, so that definitely helped."

Holden made it 4-1 at 10:06 of the third period with his second goal in two games, jumping up into the left circle and scoring off a cross-ice feed from forward Reilly Smith.

"We talked about making sure the [defensemen] were getting up in the play to make sure we had good gaps … [but it] ended up being that we were able to jump up and get some pucks and obviously score some goals and make some plays," Holden said. "That's always big when you get contributions from different places, and tonight was one of those nights."

 

[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Canadiens series coverage]

 

Brayden McNabb and Zach Whitecloud each had an assist.

Alex Pietrangelo had seven shots. Holden and Theodore each had three. Martinez and Whitecloud each had two. McNabb had one.

"We were doing the right things," Theodore said. "I thought we were detailed in our [defensive] zone. Breaking out the puck, we did well. Guys are jumping into the rush, trying to find those goals. [Holden], to get a goal in back-to-back games is huge. I think everyone is really playing well."

The Canadiens will need to adjust for Game 2 at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"They've got some solid [defensemen] over there," Price said. "They were finding lanes and getting pucks through and jumping into the rush. That's what good [defensemen] do. We've just got to find a way to mitigate that."

The defensemen defended too, of course. They had 10 of the Golden Knights' 16 blocked shots. Martinez, McNabb and Pietrangelo each had three, and Whitecloud one.

"All night, all series, all season, these guys have been amazing, blocking a lot of shots, helping me around the net for rebounds and [getting them] cleared away," goalie Marc-Andre Fleury said. "It's a big part of the game. This team shoots a lot of pucks to the net and have a lot of people coming in for rebounds and stuff. They've been great at it."

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