MONTREAL — There may come a day when Charlie Lindgren loses a game but until then, the Montreal Canadiens third-stringer is riding a wave.
Lindgren made 29 saves to lead Montreal to a 3-2 victory over the expansion Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night, his second straight win since he was called up from the Laval Rocket of the American Hockey League last week to fill in while Carey Price recovers from a lower body injury.
The Lakeville, Minn., native had posted his first NHL shutout in a 2-0 win in Chicago on Sunday night.
And he is now 5-0-0 in career starts with the Canadiens over the last three seasons, with a sterling 1.39 goals-against average and .955 save percentage. He is the first Montreal goalie to start his NHL career with five wins since Wayne Thomas in 1972-73.
"It's been a heck of a start — it's been fun," said Lindgren, who played his first game at the Bell Centre. "It was unreal.
"The Bell Centre, that's where you want to play. It was a blast."
The Canadiens signed Lindgren as a free agent out of St. Cloud State University in March, 2016. He played his first NHL game only days later. He was called up for two games last season, but the Canadiens prefer that he develop his skills in the AHL. With Price, the 2015 Vezina Trophy winner who is signed for eight more years at more than US$10 million per season, the team is in no hurry to bring up a youngster.
Brendan Gallagher and Jamie Benn scored in the first period and Max Pacioretty added one for Montreal (7-8-1), which has gone 5-1-0 in its last six games after starting the season 2-7-1.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Erik Huala scored for Vegas (9-5-1), which ended a six-game road trip with a 1-4-1 record. The Knights were coming off a shootout loss in Toronto on Monday night and were playing their sixth game in nine days.
Lindgren set the tone early with a big save on James Neal on the first of only two shots he faced in the first period, and he had to be sharp as the Knights stormed back with 29 shots in the final two periods to outshoot Montreal 31-28.
"It's easier when you get a lot of action and get into the game," said Lindgren. "In the second and third, they started coming.
"It was wild. We knew coming in that Vegas doesn't give up. They're such a hard-working team. They threw everything at the net at the end. My defencemen really helped me out."
He did it all wearing the mask he had last season when Montreal's farm team was in St. John's. It has the team name IceCaps written on the front.
"My (new) mask is coming," he said. "It's been in the works for a long time.
"Unfortunately it got sent to the wrong location. But it'll be coming no doubt. I'm not the superstitious type. Once I get it, I'll throw it on."
Tomas Plekanec won a race to a dump-in and fed Gallagher alone at the side of the net for his seventh goal at 8:24. Benn got his first on a point shot through heavy traffic at 10:55.
Vegas got one back when Bellemare deked past Jeff Petry and beat Lindgren from close range at 17:41.
Pacioretty was at the doorstep to redirect a Petry shot past Maxime Legace 3:31 into the second frame.
The Knights had Legace pulled for an extra attacker when Jonathan Marchessault fed a cross-ice pass that Huala one-timed into an open side with 1:17 left to play. There was a wild final minute as the Knights buzzed the Montreal net but couldn't get the equalizer.
"Vegas didn't give up," said coach Claude Julien. "They're a blue collar team and a tough team to play against."
Montreal centre Jonathan Drouin did not play in the third period due to an upper body injury. There was no post-game update on his condition.
After the game, Michael McCarron was assigned to Laval and new Rocket captain Byron Froese was called up.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press