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Vegas opens Stanley Cup semifinal with 4-1 win over Montreal

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.

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.

Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden (22) celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

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.

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.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) and defenseman Shea Theodore (27) celebrate after the Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Montreal Canadiens in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

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.

Montreal Canadiens right wing Brendan Gallagher (11) vies for the puck with Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (7) during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

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.

Vegas Golden Knights center Jonathan Marchessault, center, celebrates after Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Nick Holden, right, scored against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

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.

Montreal Canadiens players celebrate after Montreal Canadiens right wing Cole Caufield, second from left, scored against the Vegas Golden Knights during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

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Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) celebrates after defenseman Nick Holden, left, scored a goal against the Montreal Canadiens during the third period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) blocks a shot by Vegas Golden Knights left wing William Carrier (28) during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP PhotoJohn Locher)