Montreal Canadiens right wing Paul Byron, right, celebrates after scoring on Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period Wednesday in Las Vegas. David Becker/Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — Carey Price made 29 saves and the Montreal Canadiens beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Wednesday night to tie the Stanley Cup semifinal series at a game apiece.

Price improved to 9-4 in the playoffs, his most victories in a postseason. He had eight in 2014.

Paul Byron, Joel Armia and Tyler Toffoli scored for Montreal, with Bryon making it 3-0 with 2:45 left in the second period.

Alex Pietrangelo scored twice for Vegas, and Marc-Andre Fleury made 20 saves.

Game 3 is Friday night in Montreal.

Montreal has won 21 straight playoff games when scoring three or more goals.

Abandoning the rugged approach they took in Game 1, the Canadiens looked more like the team that reeled off seven straight wins in the first and second rounds, dominating in all three zones in the first 20 minutes.

With Vegas missing top-line center Chandler Stephenson, and third-line center Nick Roy skating in his place, Montreal had the advantage in shots-on-goal (12-4), shot attempts (24-13), scoring chances (14-4), and high-danger chances (8-1).

Armia got the scoring going after he crunched Vegas defenseman Alec Martinez into the end boards behind Fleury, allowing Corey Perry to gather the puck and feed Joel Edmundson in the right circle. Edmundson fired a shot that deflected back to Armia, who one-timed it past Fleury’s right skate.

Jeff Petry made his presence felt in his first game back after missing Montreal’s last two. He played give-and-go with Cole Caufield, who opted to pass across the slot rather than fire on net and found Toffoli, who one-timed a snapper through Fleury’s five-hole to not only push the Canadiens’ lead to 2-0 but extend Montreal’s first-period scoring edge in the playoffs to 12-3.

Vegas continued to be its own worst enemy in the second period as Max Pacioretty clanked a breakaway shot off the bottom of the right post. Then during a power play, Alec Martinez broke his stick while teeing off on a shot to Price’s left, and moments later it was Pacioretty whiffing on a shot at the doorstep.

Vegas was finally able to solve Price when Pietrangelo held the puck at the blue line long enough to find a right lane to the net, bringing the deficit back down to two goals late in the second.

Vegas cut the lead to one with a little more than five minutes left in the game when William Karlsson won a faceoff to the right of Price, Jonathan Marchessault gathered the puck and fed Pietrangelo, whose wrist shot from the circle gave him his second goal of the night.


ISLANDERS-LIGHTNING: Semyon Varlamov is the wily veteran, coming off a season in which he set career bests in goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts for the New York Islanders.

Andrei Vasilevskiy is the league’s wins leader over the last four years for the Tampa Bay Lightning, coming off a Stanley Cup championship season and vying for his second Vezina Trophy in three years.

The two countrymen were teammates, too, a long way from the NHL playoffs.

“He’s been the best goalie in the NHL last couple of years,” Varlamov said of his counterpart. “He’s outstanding.”

The two were on Russia’s World Cup of Hockey squad in 2016, playing behind starter Sergei Bobrovsky. Last September, they squared off when the Islanders and Lightning met in the Eastern Conference finals, which Tampa Bay won in six games on the way to earning its first Stanley Cup.

The Russian netminders are part of a rennaisance of sorts, one that was featured in last year’s postseason. This year, the showdown could be the deciding factor in the team’s Stanley Cup semifinal series, which is tied 1-1 heading into Game 3 on Thursday night.

“I like this kid, but now we play against each other,” the 33-year-old Varlamov said. “He’s a very big goalie, very athletic, and won a Cup last year, won the Vezina Trophy. I can say a lot of great things about him.”

The 26-year-old Vasilevskiy has been the unquestioned starter for the Lightning since they traded Ben Bishop at the deadline in February 2017. Vasilevskiy has responded by totaling a league-best 149 wins over the last four seasons. He also holds franchise records for career wins (190), shutouts (26), games (302), single-season marks for victories (44) and shutouts (eight) .

Vasilevskiy, finishing the first year of an eight-year, $76 million extension, went 31-10-1 this season with a career-low 2.21 GAA and .925 save percentage.

“He’s super-competitive and he doesn’t like to lose,” Tampa Bay forward Nikita Kucherov said. “He’s been unreal.”


Varlamov has been part of a tandem in New York the last two years after signing with the Islanders for four years, $20 million as a free agent. He split time with Thomas Greiss last season, starting 39 of the team’s 67 games and 19 of 22 in the playoff run. In 2021, he was paired with 25-year-old rookie Ilya Sorokin, a fellow Russian, and finished 19-11-4 with career bests of a 2.04 GAA, .929 save percentage and seven shutouts.

Islanders Coach Barry Trotz has credited Varlamov for being “low maintenance” and quickly shaking off a bad play or bad night.

“Varly is one of those guys that (when he) has a bad game, you want to throw him in there right away because you know he’s going to come back with a really good game,” he said.

Varlamov missed the opener in the first round against Pittsburgh due to an injury and Sorokin won the game. Varlamov returned for the next two games, which the Islanders lost, so Trotz turned back to Sorokin. who was unbeatable as the Islanders won three straight to advance.

After Sorokin lost the opener of the second round to Boston, Trotz went back to Varlamov, citing his strong career record against the Bruins, and the Islanders advanced again.

“In our minds, Varly is one of the best goalies in the league,” Islanders forward Jordan Eberle said.

In this series, Varlamov has stopped 53 of 58 shots, leaving Game 2 briefly after getting run into. Sorokin stopped all six shots he faced while filling in.

Vasilevskiy also has 53 saves on 57 shots, and has helped the Lightning avoid consecutive losses in the last two postseasons while they improved to 11-0 in games following a defeat.

RANGERS: Gerard Gallant is the new coach of the Rangers and will be tasked with taking one of the NHL’s youngest clubs to the next level.

The Rangers announced Gallant’s hiring after agreeing to a four-year contract with him this week.

The 57-year-old Gallant, who led Canada to a gold medal at the world hockey championship in Latvia after an 0-3 start, replaces David Quinn, who was fired along with much of his staff after the Rangers missed the playoffs in a disappointing season.

New Rangers president and general manager Chris Drury made the move to dismiss Quinn and hire Gallant after he replaced President John Davidson and GM Jeff Gorton, who were fired days earlier with owner James Dolan citing the need for a “change in leadership.”

MAPLE LEAFS: Jason Spezza re-signed with Toronto, agreeing to the NHL-minimum $750,000 for next season.

The 38-year-old Spezza had 10 goals and 20 assists in 54 regular-season games for his hometown team and added three goals and two assists in seven playoff games.

Spezza has 351 goals and 619 assists in 1,177 career regular-season games for Ottawa, Dallas and Toronto. He has 28 goals and 47 assists in 92 playoff games.

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