Sports Minus Ducharme, Anderson and Price lead Habs to OT win and series lead over Knights
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MONTREAL — Luke Richardson didn't envision his debut as an NHL head coach coming this way.
But he'll take it — and so will the underdog, never-say-die Canadiens, who now sit an improbable two victories from the Stanley Cup final following another crazy twist in an incredible season.
Josh Anderson scored his second goal of the night at 12:53 of overtime and Carey Price made 43 saves as Montreal defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Friday to take a 2-1 lead in this third-round matchup hours after learning interim coach Dominique Ducharme had tested positive for COVID-19.
Canadiens Notebook: Was Bob Gainey's speech the first of many?
Brendan Gallagher probably wasn’t supposed to mention that Bob Gainey had spoken with the Canadiens at their Brossard practice facility. But Gallagher let it out when he spoke with the media Wednesday on a video conference. “You talk about experience, there’s not a lot of organizations that can fall on alumni with the amount of experience that this one can, and we were fortunate to have one in the building today,” Gallagher said Wednesday in announcing that Gainey made a speech to the team.
"I would have thought my first chance running an NHL bench would be an exhibition game," said Richardson, a Canadiens assistant temporarily promoted to the top job in Ducharme's absence. "But it happened to be in third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs in overtime, so it's pretty exciting.
"We're just hoping to keep this thing going and we'll get the whole group back together."
Cole Caufield had the other goal for Montreal before 3,500 fans at the Bell Centre as the plucky Canadiens won in OT for the fourth time in these playoffs.
Ducharme's first test came back positive Friday morning before a subsequent result provided confirmation. He addressed the team before and after the game virtually, and was in communication with Richardson and his staff between periods.
Canadiens Game Day: Habs will face full house as series opens in Vegas
The Vegas Golden Knights had a 21-5-2 record at home during the regular season this year — and that was without a packed house. When the Canadiens face the Golden Knights in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series Monday night at T-Mobile arena there will be a full house with more than 18,000 screaming fans (9 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM). It will be the same thing for Game 2 Wednesday night in Las Vegas. “We have When the Canadiens face the Golden Knights in Game 1 of their Stanley Cup semifinal series Monday night at T-Mobile arena there will be a full house with more than 18,000 screaming fans (9 p.m., CBC, SN, TVA Sports, TSN 690 Radio, 98.5 FM).
"It was very difficult," Anderson said of not having Ducharme present. "Most of us were pretty confused, too. Us staying in such a tight bubble, and not going anywhere outside.
"When you lose your head coach, it's obviously very tough."
Nicolas Roy and Alex Pietrangelo replied for Vegas. Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 24 stops — and one major gaffe on Anderson's equalizer late in regulation — for the Golden Knights, who sat 23 points ahead of the Canadiens in the regular-season standings.
"We liked the way we played," Vegas captain Mark Stone said of Fleury. "Starting from the top, we have to score goals."
The Golden Knights will have to do that when the best-of-seven showdown resumes Sunday night or they'll be heading home in a 3-1 hole.
Anderson's winner came after he knocked down an aerial pass from Jesperi Kotkaniemi at the offensive blue line. The puck fell to Paul Byron, who froze Fleury before passing back to Anderson for his third goal of the playoffs to send the Bell Centre into a chaotic celebration.
Montreal's Young Guns Are Finding Their Way
And coach Dom Ducharme deserves some credit for not rushing their progress - even if it was an unpopular decision. © Provided by Hockey News on Sports Illustrated From left: Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Tyler Toffoli. Photo by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports. It's amazing to think it wasn't that long ago - a matter of weeks - that a lot of Montreal fans wanted coach Dominique Ducharme fired.
"It looked like we had a lot more energy than them (in OT)," Anderson said. "We found a way."
But it wouldn't have got that far without Price, who stymied Vegas time and again until his teammates finally found traction.
"It was incredible," Anderson said of the goaltender's performance. "He kept us in the game, all game.
"We wouldn't be sitting here talking about this without him."
After the Golden Knights, who dominated much of the first two periods and led 30-8 on the shot clock through 40 minutes, killed off a penalty to start the third, Pietrangelo fired his fourth goal of the playoffs — and third in the last two games — under Price's blocker on an odd-man rush at 2:22.
Vegas appeared to be cruising to a 2-1 series lead late in the third when Fleury, who was solid all night up to that point, could have been fitted for goat horns after misplaying the puck behind his net and gifting Anderson his second into an open net with 1:55 remaining.
"Those type of events are tough to recover from," Golden Knights head coach Pete DeBoer said. "We talked between the third and the overtime about trying to get our mojo back.
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"There's no doubt that carried into the overtime for us a little on the negative side, and for sure gave them some pop."
Ducharme's absence is just the latest negative bump in the road for Montreal in a trying 2020-2021 campaign.
The Canadiens got off to a hot start, but struggled in February, which led to the firing of Claude Julien and associate coach Kirk Muller, and the promotion of the 48-year-old Ducharme from an assistant's role.
Montreal also dealt with a COVID-19 outbreak in March before a number of key injuries hampered the team as it limped into the playoffs.
The Canadiens were expected to be blown out by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, but instead rebounded from a 3-1 series deficit to stun their Original Six rivals in seven games.
Montreal was again an underdog against Winnipeg in the battle for the Canadian-based North Division crown only to again shock the hockey world by sweeping the Jets.
"It's been up and down this year," Price said. "But I feel like we've always responded well to the adversity. (Game 3) was just another example of that.
"Not having Dom behind the bench was just another twist."
The NHL said in a statement before Game 3 announcing Ducharme's positive test that all of the Canadiens' players, fellow coaches and team staff came back with negative results both Thursday and Friday.
About Last Night: Habs do it for Dom, defeat Vegas 3-2 in Game 3
The Montreal Canadiens are two wins away from the Stanley Cup finals. Despite being outshot 45-27, the Habs defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 in overtime to take Game 3 of their third round series Friday at the Bell Centre. Josh Anderson ended his goal-scoring drought to pot two, including the game-winner. Carey Price made 43 saves in the win. It was a dramatic day for the Canadiens, which began with coach Dominique Ducharme’s positive COVID test . Luke Richardson took Ducharme’s place, with Alex Burrows and Sean Burke as his assistants.
"Things went fast, and maybe that's better off," Richardson said. "We didn't have too much time to think about it."
Montreal also had to do without its coach during last summer's post-season bubble when Julien was rushed to a Toronto hospital before having a stent installed into one of his coronary arteries.
"I don't think we ever prepare for it," Richardson added of being thrown this loop for the second time in 10 months. "I think we reacted very well."
In his seventh season as an NHL assistant — and third with Montreal — the former defenceman was head coach of the AHL's Binghamton Senators from 2012 through 2016.
With coronavirus restrictions further relaxed in Quebec, the Canadiens were allowed to boost attendance by 1,000 after welcoming 2,500 spectators for their last three home games.
Friday marked the first two-anthem night north of the border since last September thanks to a federal exemption allowing teams to bypass Canada's 14-day quarantine requirements.
Following a first period where the Golden Knights carried the play and held a 16-3 shot edge after Montreal had great starts in Games 1 and 2 in Sin City — winning the latter 3-2 on Wednesday — Vegas finally got on the board at 3:16 of the second on a gift from Canadiens winger Eric Staal.
The veteran forward inexplicably threw a pass in front of his own net that was intercepted by Roy, who roofed his second.
Montreal got that one right back just 38 seconds later when Nick Suzuki — no worse for wear following a massive open-ice hit from Brayden McNabb earlier in the period — blocked a shot and fed a pass ahead to a streaking Caufield.
Montreal's rookie sniper moved in alone and fired his second over Fleury's glove, setting the stage for more late drama.
"We just don't quit," Price said. "We've gone through a lot of adversity.
"We keep responding."
This time, without their coach.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 18, 2021.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press
Ducharme feels 'helpless' watching Habs from home after positive COVID-19 test .
MONTREAL — Dominique Ducharme felt helpless. The Montreal Canadiens interim head coach — hours after testing positive for COVID-19 — was sitting at home as his team battled in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. And all he could do was watch. "It's tough to describe," Ducharme, who isn't experiencing any symptoms, said during a virtual media availability Sunday morning. "It's a weird situation. I've never been through that." TheThe Montreal Canadiens interim head coach — hours after testing positive for COVID-19 — was sitting at home as his team battled in the third round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.