Stanley Cup Final – Washington Capitals beat Vegas Golden Knights
Stanley Cup Final – Washington Capitals beat Vegas Golden Knights
Capitals seize 2-1 Stanley Cup finals lead. Alex Ovechkin starts it, DSP ends it
Stanley Cup Final – Washington Capitals beat Vegas Golden Knights. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov scored second-period goals and Devante Smith-Pelly added another late. While Washington Capitals fans jammed Capital One Arena for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, other fans are making a night of it outside.
Stanley Cup finals: Game 3
Washington Capitals 3, Vegas Golden Knights 1
Series: Capitals lead, 2-1
Next game: Monday, June 4, 8 p.m. ET | TV: NBC
The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup finals game in Washington and the crowd roared
Evgeny Kuznetsov flapped his wings, Alex Ovechkin stood on the bench and roared with both arms raised as Lars Eller happily rubbed the captain’s stomach, and Capital One Arena answered his roar with an even louder one. The Stanley Cup finals had arrived in Washington, and the Capitals rose to the moment.
Washington won Game 3 of the best-of-seven series, 3-1, on Saturday night for a two-games-to-one lead over the Vegas Golden Knights. The Capitals’ stars carried them, from Ovechkin scoring the first goal to Kuznetsov building on the lead to goaltender Braden Holtby pitching a shutout through 40 minutes and turning away 21 of 22 shots for the game. Washington played its game perfectly, suffocating the Golden Knights and holding them to just 13 shots through two periods.
The organization’s first Stanley Cup finals home win was sealed when Jay Beagle set up Devante Smith-Pelly, who beat Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury from point-blank range at 13:53 of the third period to make it 3-1. A wave of red leaped to its feet, “Let’s go Caps” chants following shortly after. Washington’s two-goal lead was restored, and the Golden Knights’ push fell short. It was a moment of redemption for Smith-Pelly, who had taken two penalties earlier in the game.
“It’s nuts right now, and it’s great to see,” defenseman John Carlson said. “They deserve us to get there, and we’ve got a long ways to go, but you always have to take it in and have fun with it.”
It had been 20 years since Washington hosted a Stanley Cup finals game, and the lower bowl of Capital One Arena was largely full as warmups began. More than 14,000 fans had shown up to watch Games 1 and 2 here, even though the Capitals were playing in Las Vegas. Sting and Shaggy performed a concert on the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery steps before the game, and “Wheel of Fortune” host Pat Sajak announced the starting lineups. After a drawn-out buildup, foam red glowing sticks waved wildly in anticipation of puck drop.
“I’ve never seen the fans like this,” forward T.J. Oshie said before the game. “They’re always good, but I’ve never seen them like this.”
Alex Ovechkin went airborne, Evgeny Kuznetsov flapped his arms like a bird of prey and the Washington Capitals are flying high, just two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.
Ovechkin dived to score his 14th goal of the playoffs and raised his arms in joy when Kuznetsov beat Marc-Andre Fleury and broke out his signature bird celebration in the second period the two Russians will long remember. Led by their two best players, the Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final.
Fired up in the first Cup Final game in Washington since 1998, the Capitals unloaded chance after chance on Fleury, who made 23 saves but couldn’t backstop a frazzled, disjointed team that lost two games in a row for the first time in the playoffs. At the other end, Braden Holtby gifted Tomas Nosek a goal by giving the puck away but stopped the other 21 shots he faced from the Golden Knights, who looked nothing like the winners of 13 of their first 16 playoff games through the first three rounds.
The Golden Knights’ historic run in its inaugural season is now in danger of coming to an end with Game 4 back in Washington on Monday night. The Capitals are seeking their first title in their 43-year history.
Holtby was there when the Capitals needed him, but they didn’t need him much because they were on the attack for much of the game. Fleury stopped Ovechkin on a 2-on-1 rush early and the superstar captain was at his best early.
Home ice had been bittersweet for Washington this postseason. The Capitals entered Saturday night with a 4-5 record in Chinatown during these playoffs, but their last game here had been positive: a Game 6 shutout of the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference finals. It offered Washington a formula for success against the Golden Knights, who had lost just two games on the road this postseason.
“The further the playoff has gone, we are playing smarter, not taking too many risks,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I feel like that’s the way you have to play. You have to play well defensively, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”
The Capitals got good news before the game: Kuznetsov was back in the lineup after a scare in Game 2. He suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury Wednesday when Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb crunched him against the glass in the first period, forcing Washington’s top center and leading scorer to miss the rest of the game.
In his first home Cup Final game, Ovechkin attempted eight shots in the first period and scored a goal that seemed inevitable. It came 1:10 into the second period when Ovechkin went full-extension over Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb to reach the rebound and backhanded the puck past Fleury.
Ovechkin’s 14th goal of the playoffs matched John Druce’s franchise record set in 1990 and tied him for the league lead in these playoffs.
His joy overflowed on the bench when Kuznetsov showed his injured left arm is just fine by scoring on a perfect wrist shot on an odd-man rush. Ovechkin looked to the ceiling with his arms extended as he was hugged by Lars Eller.
Kuznetsov looked good on his first shift Saturday when, on a two-on-one, his saucer pass skipped over McNabb and went right to Ovechkin’s stick. But Fleury made the highlight-reel save on the first shot of the game. Ovechkin had eight shot attempts in the first period alone.
“I feel like Ovi always has about 10 shots on goal halfway through the game, or he has the attempts at least,” Eller said. “He was pumped up. Everybody was pumped up today.”
The Capitals had another close call when forward Chandler Stephenson beat Fleury, sniping the puck past him. But the goal was immediately waved off; Smith-Pelly had made contact with Fleury in the crease, his backside catching the goaltender’s head. In a significant swing, Smith-Pelly went to the box for goaltender interference, and the Golden Knights got a power play.
But the Capitals withstood that push, neither team breaking through in the first period. Then Ovechkin and Kuznetsov were rewarded coming out of intermission. Barely a minute into the period, Washington took several whacks at a puck bouncing in front of Fleury. Ovechkin punched in a rebound on the fifth try, lifting Washington to a one-goal lead at 1:10.
Then, 12:50 into the period, after an extended shift by the Golden Knights, Beagle finally cleared the puck to create a two-on-one with Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov held onto the puck and then calmly shot the puck past Fleury. There had been some concern that he had injured his wrist on the collision with McNabb in the previous game, but that shot assured he was feeling just fine.
“It’s emotional stuff,” Kuznetsov said. “Like Michael Jordan, when he played his best game — he got hurt.”
Kuznetsov kicked up a leg and stretched out his arms as he mimicked a bird, a celebration that’s a favorite with his young daughter. On the bench, Ovechkin stood, raised both arms and screamed as teammates hugged him. The Stanley Cup was on display in Section 204 of Capital One Arena before the game, and now the Capitals are two wins from claiming it as their own for the first time.
— Dick Uliano (@DickUliano) June 3, 2018
“It’s obviously fun for us to see the city like this and bring that kind of energy and enjoyment,” Holtby said. “The fans have been phenomenal. But in saying that, our group as professionals, you get more out of making that sacrifice so everyone can enjoy it. So we’re just putting our head down, focusing on Game 4 to keep working toward that big goal.”
Alex Ovechkin sets the tone.
The Captain delivers: Alex Ovechkin opened the scoring and capped a frenetic sequence with a diving, backhanded shot off a rebound early in the second period. The goal was Ovechkin’s 14th of the playoffs, matching John Druce’s 28-year-old franchise postseason record, and it gave the Capitals their first lead at home in a Stanley Cup finals game. The Capitals improved to 11-4 during the playoffs when scoring first. Ovechkin’s 60 career playoff goals are fourth-most among active players.
Defending home ice: The last time the Capitals hosted a Stanley Cup finals game was June 16, 1998, when the Red Wings completed a sweep with a 4-1 win at a sparkling new building called MCI Center. Saturday’s contest was considerably more enjoyable for the home crowd. Playing at Capital One Arena for the first time in two weeks, the Capitals improved to 5-5 in Chinatown this postseason, while Vegas fell to 6-3 on the road. The Capitals won consecutive home games for only the second time this postseason (the first being Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals) and came out on top in what has historically been a pivotal contest. When the Stanley Cup finals are tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has gone on to win the series 78 percent of the time since the NHL went to a best-of-seven format in 1939.
Welcome back, Kuzy: Evgeny Kuznetsov was a game-time decision after missing most of Game 2 with an undisclosed upper-body injury, but the Capitals’ leading scorer during the playoffs was in the lineup on Saturday and made his presence felt. After having his franchise postseason record 11-game point scoring streak snapped on Wednesday, Kuznetsov started a new streak with an assist on Ovechkin’s goal. Eleven minutes later, he took a pass from Jay Beagle and whistled a shot under Marc-Andre Fleury’s blocker and into the back of the net for his 12th goal of the playoffs.
Defense wins championships: Beagle deserves a mention for his two primary assists, including one on Devante Smith-Pelly’s insurance goal in the third period, but Washington’s overall defensive effort keyed Washington’s 3-1 win. The Capitals set the tone in the first period when they recorded 15 of their 26 blocked shots. Vegas looked nothing like the team that erupted for five goals and an empty-netter in Game 1. The Golden Knights managed only 22 shots on goal and their only tally came on a gift of a turnover by Braden Holtby, who was otherwise solid for a second consecutive game.
1. Alex Ovechkin: 1 goal, 10 shot attempts and 7 scoring chances, 3 of those from the slot or the crease
2. Jay Beagle: 2 assists, 3 takeaways, 2 hits and 1 blocked shot plus 7 faceoff wins
3. Matt Niskanen: On the ice for just 2 scoring chances against during the penalty kill
Vegas had no answer for Alex Ovechkin. Washington’s superstar and captain ended the night with one goal and 10 shot attempts. He also had a takeaway and two blocked shots. His line, featuring Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson, tallied 12 shot attempts and nine scoring chances at even strength against the Golden Knights’ top pair of Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb.
Washington’s defense also stepped up big. The unit made sure netminder Braden Holtby had to fend off just seven high-danger chances at even strength and only two more when Vegas had a power play.
Final: Capitals 3, Golden Knights 1
The Capitals never relinquished their early lead after Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov got them out to a 2-0 lead, and Devante Smith-Pelly’s third-period strike accounted for the final 3-1 margin.
Washington leads the series 2-1 with Game 4 Monday night in Washington.
Doc Emrick’s ode: “They are cheering and screaming. Their team is up by two with 39 and a half to go. There are posters with Stanley Cups on them, saying ‘It’s okay to believe.’ Perhaps in past years it was against their better judgment. But judgment gets clouded by emotion, and also by success.” – DS
Extra attacker on for Vegas: Marc-Andre Fleury headed to the bench with 2:40 to play and the Golden Knights trailing by two. Tom Wilson’s long shot attempt missed the net with 1:39 remaining, resulting in an icing. – SA
Smith-Pelly so playoffy: Devante Smith-Pelly scored five goals in 12 games for the Ducks four years ago in his playoffs debut, after having only two goals in that regular season. He’s kind of doing it again. He now has five goals in these playoffs, after scoring just seven in the regular season. And several of his playoff goals this spring have been of the never-will-be-forgotten variety. – DS
Some insurance: After the Capitals survived a barrage of chances by Vegas’s fourth line, they took a 3-1 lead with 6:07 to play thanks to some hustle and a well-placed shot. Jay Beagle stole the puck from Shea Theodore on a dump in and found Devante Smith-Pelly streaking to the net. Smith-Pelly went top shelf to beat Marc-Andre Fleury and give Washington a two-goal cushion. – SA
Nothing doing on the power play: The Capitals spent a good chunk of their latest man advantage in their zone and failed to register a shot on goal. Washington is 0-for-4 on the power play tonight and 1 for 7 in the series. The Capitals’ lead remains 2-1 more than halfway through the third. – SA
Caps catch a break: The Capitals went back on the power play 7:35 into the third period after Deryk Engelland was given a two-minute minor for tripping Nicklas Backstrom. Engelland wasn’t happy with the call, and for good reason, as the replay showed that Backstrom was felled by teammate Chandler Stephenson’s stick. – SA
A mistake and a goal: With 16:31 remaining in the third period, Vegas cut the Capitals’ lead in half on a goal by Tomas Nosek that wasn’t much more difficult than the empty-netter he scored to cap the scoring in Game 1. Nosek’s fourth goal of the playoffs and third of the series was set up by Braden Holtby’s failed attempt to send the puck around boards from behind his net. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare deflected Holtby’s ill-advised pass in front of the net and Nosek did the rest. – SA
Vegas gets a kill: The Capitals lived in the Golden Knights’ zone during their abbreviated power play early in the third period, but they couldn’t crack Vegas’s penalty-killing unit and Marc-Andre Fleury. Seconds after the teams returned to even strength, Fleury caught a break when T.J. Oshie rang a shot off the post. – SA
Caps defense is smothering Knights: Braden Holtby looks great, but the Caps defense deserves a lot more credit. Washington’s defensive pairing of John Carlson and Michal Kempny have been on the ice for just one scoring chance against at even strength and Brooks Orpik and Christian Djoos have been on for two.
Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov have allowed 12 chances, but just three from the slot or the crease, which is solid considering they skate against the Golden Knight’s top pair of William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith a majority of the time. – NG
Golden Knights need something: Vegas hasn’t lost consecutive games since the playoffs began, nearly two months ago. But the Knights look markedly different than they had in the first three rounds of the playoffs, and even than they did in Game 1 against Washington. Their free-flowing speed and offensive creativity blossomed in that game, but something has gummed up the works since then. Vegas Coach Gerard Gallant attributed the problems to Washington’s shot-blocking, but it’s clearly something. “I don’t think they have the same jump,” said NBC’s Mike Milbury. If Washington is both more physical AND faster than Vegas, and better in net, then what exactly is Vegas’s advantage? Those flaming crossbow things? – DS
End Period 2: Capitals 2, Golden Knights 0
The Capitals are 10-4 when scoring first, as they did tonight. They’re 10-2 when leading after two periods, as they do tonight. Washington is outshooting the Golden Knights 21-13 and will have about a minute of power play time early in the third period. – SA
Fleury living dangerously: With 1:26 to play in the period, Devante Smith-Pelly was sent to the penalty box for tripping Shea Theodore. The Golden Knights’ ensuing power play wouldn’t last long. A minute into the man advantage, Marc-Andre Fleury came way out of his net in an attempt to play a loose puck. When Matt Niskanen beat him to the spot, Fleury had no choice but to trip the Capitals’ defenseman, resulting in 4-on-4 action for the remainder of the frame. – SA
Caps’ O is clicking: Marc-Andre Fleury is doing his part to keep Vegas in the game. The Golden Knights netminder denied Evgeny Kuznetsov his second goal of the game on an odd-man rush late in the second period and gloved a Tom Wilson shot destined for the back of the net less than a minute later. The Capitals have 10 of the 14 scoring chances in the period. – SA
Ovechkin is happy: As these playoffs have gone on, NBC’s cameras have increasingly sought out Washington’s captain, after events good or bad. That ain’t changing. Within a few moments Saturday night, we were shown Alex Ovechkin grimacing after a near miss, and then raising his arms to the heavens in celebration after Kuznetsov’s goal. Can you imagine what Ovechkin will do if … Well, whatever. – DS
MY EMOTIONS pic.twitter.com/OEdrct70JP
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 3, 2018
Welcome back, Kuzy: Vegas killed off Erik Haula’s penalty, but Evgeny Kuznetsov gave the Capitals a 2-0 lead a minute later with his 12th goal of the playoffs on a wrist shot under Marc-Andre Fleury’s blocker
— NHL (@NHL) June 3, 2018
Chances for Oshie: The Capitals have come within an inch or so of taking a two-goal lead on two occasions in the second period. About eight minutes into the frame, Jakub Vrana’s cross-crease pass to T.J. Oshie caught the heel of Oshie’s stick and trickled away. Later, during a Capitals power play after Erik Haula was sent to the box for hooking, Oshie redirected a John Carlson shot off the right post. – SA
Big-time collision: Brooks Orpik has one inch and nine pounds on 6-foot-2, 208-pound Vegas winger James Neal, but he got the worst of this hit in the second period. Orpik was slow to get up, but skated off under his own power. – SA
James Neal on Brooks Orpik…yikes pic.twitter.com/umXu4YO53M
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) June 3, 2018
End-to-end action: The action has picked up since Alex Ovechkin’s goal, with both teams generating scoring chances. Vegas failed to take advantage of a Brooks Orpik turnover in the Capitals zone, as Ryan Reaves couldn’t get a stick on Pierre Edouard-Bellemare’s pass from behind the net. A minute later, Braden Holtby was forced to make a glove save on Jonathan Marchessault’s wrister after the Vegas center put the puck between Dmitry Orlov’s legs and found himself all alone in the slot. – SA
They’re partying in the streets: There has literally never been a D.C. sports crowd like this gathered in Chinatown. With the streets blocked off and a huge party already started, cameras have shown the sort of jubilant downtown throngs that we’re used to seeing in other cities. Minor-league town, my eye. – DS
— MonumentalSportsNet (@MonSportsNet) June 3, 2018
Of course it was Ovechkin: That goal gave Washington its first-ever home lead in a Stanley Cup finals game. How perfect that Ovechkin was the man to finally prompt that sort of championship-round celebration. And how perfect that Ovechkin seemed to be joyfully cursing his head off after the tally. – DS
Caps take the lead, 1-0: A diving Alex Ovechkin capped a frenetic sequence in the Vegas zone by backhanding a shot over Marc-Andre Fleury’s pad and into the net 1:10 into the second period to give Washington a 1-0 lead. The sequence began with Fleury making a sprawling save on John Carlson and somehow getting back in position to deny Washington’s first rebound attempt. Ovechkin’s goal was his 14th of the postseason, tying him with John Druce for the franchise record for goals in a single postseason. – SA
It's a bird, it's a plane, it's @ovi8 with the first goal of the game!
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 3, 2018
Blanked at home: Here’s something weird, and totally meaningless: In three Stanley Cup finals games at MCI/Verizon/Capital One Center, the Caps have zero first-period goals. – DS
More praise for the captain: It’s hard to remember the last time NBC’s analysts had a bad word to say about Alex Ovechkin. “He was great,” Keith Jones said during the first intermission. “Every element of the game. Blocking shots. Hitting. Getting in front of the net, battling for loose pucks. He did all of that. The speed was evident in the first period for Ovechkin. Great hockey sense as well, getting pucks to the net. I thought he was terrific.”
“Clearly on top of his game,” Mike Milbury agreed. “Good energy, good patience, made the good decisions. This is the new and improved Ovi that everybody’s come to appreciate. He’s bringing the A-game in the most important game of the season.” – SA
Kenan Thompson oh no: The Saturday Night Live person was first given a Caps hat to replace his Yankees hat outside the arena, and then appeared on NBC’s intermission show to explain his Caps fandom. He said he was invited to the game so he came. Asked to identify his favorite Caps players, he named Alex Ovechkin (“Mr. Infinity”), “Brent” Holtby and “Ochie.” “Some other people,” he then said. “What other names can I give you?” In the battle for glitzy fans, Washington has now been TKO’d. – DS
Washington D stands up early: Credit Washington’s defense for making the job easier on netminder Braden Holtby. Jonathan Marchessault leads all Vegas skaters with two even-strength scoring chances and the Capitals defense has only allowed seven chances total, with just two coming from the slot or the crease. – NG
Ovi is on fire: In Game 1, Golden Knights defensive pair Nate Schmidt and Brayden McNabb were able to keep Washington’s top line, featuring Alex Ovechkin, from having a huge impact on the game. Since then, Ovechkin and his linemates have had the edge, and in the first period of Game 3 the Capitals captain has seven even-strength shot attempts and all five scoring chances his line has produced against the Schmidt-McNabb pairing.
Vegas also isn’t shadowing Ovechkin on the power play as much as it did in the first two games. Granted, Washington didn’t get much time in the offensive zone when it had the man advantage, but Ovechkin did manage to get the puck on his stick, which is always a dangerous proposition. – NG
Where are the goals?: We all figured that frenetic scoring pace from Game 1 wasn’t really Stanley Cup finals material. Turns out we were right. These teams combined for 15 goals in the first five periods of this series. The last two periods have been scoreless. It really makes life easier for the people frenetically typing up these updates, to be honest. And the people editing them. – DS
End Period 1: Golden Knights 0, Capitals 0
For the third consecutive game, the Capitals and Golden Knights are tied after the first period. Defense was the story in the most uneventful opening 20 minutes of the series thus far, as Washington outshot Vegas 7-6 and blocked 15 shots.
The Capitals’ best chance came in the first two minutes, when Marc-Andre Fleury slid across the crease to make a pad save on an Alex Ovechkin one-timer, while Braden Holtby benefited from a couple of Golden Knights shots that ricocheted off the post. – SA
Still scoreless: Vegas survived the Capitals’ first power play of the game with relative ease. Marc-Andre Fleury had no trouble handling John Carlson’s shot from the point and Alex Ovechkin whistled his only attempt during the 5-on-4 high and wide of the net. Washington is now 1 for 4 with the man advantage in the series. – SA
A bad sequence for Vegas: The Golden Knights’ first odd-man rush of the game went for naught when Reilly Smith couldn’t handle a pass from Jonathan Marchessault. Later in the same shift, Smith was assessed a minor for holding Michal Kempny, giving the Capitals their first power play of the game with 8:36 to play in the period. – SA
Unleash the Fleury: It might be scoreless, but the Caps have made Marc-Andre Fleury rapidly pivot his neck around to make sure that puck whizzing past him isn’t finding the net at least three times in the first half of the first period. Rapid neck pivots aren’t an official NHL stat, but they sure seem indicative of offensive pressure. – DS
A kill for the Capitals: The Golden Knights registered two shots on the first power play of the night, but the Capitals killed off Devante Smith-Pelly’s penalty to keep things scoreless. Vegas is now 2 for 7 with the man advantage in the series. With 12:23 to play in the period, shots are 5-3 Vegas. – SA
No goal: With 14:56 to play in the first period, Chandler Stephenson appeared to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead with a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle, but officials immediately waved the goal off and sent Devante Smith-Pelly to the box for goaltender interference after he made contact with Marc-Andre Fleury in the crease. – SA
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) June 3, 2018
‘A Save’: The Capitals got out of the gate slowly in Games 1 and 2, allowing the Golden Knights to dominate the shots on goal, but that wasn’t a problem Saturday. Less than two minutes after the opening faceoff, Evgeny Kuznetsov fed a pass on a 2-on-1 over to Alex Ovechkin, but Marc-Andre Fleury made an outstanding glove save on the Capitals’ captain to deny Washington the early lead. – SA
Fleury absolutely robs Ovechkin. pic.twitter.com/AwpP7tW0Xj
— NHL GIFs (@NHLGIFs) June 3, 2018
I’d like to buy an ‘O’: There were no sword fights, flaming arrows or drum lines, but the pregame show at Capital One Arena featured some subdued Stanley Cup finals flair. Wheel of Fortune host and longtime Capitals season-ticket holder Pat Sajak announced the starting lineups, just as ring announcer Michael Buffer — he of “Let’s get ready to rumble” fame — did in Game 1 in Vegas. The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets played before the national anthem.
“We have seen great teams, great players, great moments, and we have seen triumph, and we have also seen disappointment,” Sajak said as 18,000 fans waved red glow sticks. “But this season, this team, this playoff run has surpassed it all. So let’s win three more and hoist the Cup, whaddya think?” – SA
Discipline will be key: The Capitals are only 4-5 on home ice during the playoffs, but NBC analyst Mike Milbury said that trend will have no bearing on Game 3. “The final is a different animal,” Milbury said during the pregame show. “They’ve got a couple of these games under their belt already. I think they’re excited to be back home, confident. I think they have to be worried about the lack of discipline in their game. They have to be worried about whether Braden Holtby can be as superb as he was in Game 2 here in Game 3.” Vegas had five power plays in Game 2, including a two-man advantage for more than a minute in the third period. – SA
Kempny back: Evgeny Kuznetsov, a game-time decision with an undisclosed upper-body injury, was on the ice for pregame warm-ups. So was the perfectly healthy Michal Kempny, until the Capitals’ defenseman stepped on a puck and took a nasty spill into the boards. Kempny returned to the ice with stitches on his nose between his eyes. Both he and Kuznetsov are good to go. – SA
Kempny now on the ice.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) June 2, 2018
Kempny is in the lineup after his warmups spill.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) June 2, 2018
Kempny in question: Defenseman Michal Kempy left pregame warm-ups after taking a tumble into the end boards.
Kempny went into the end boards, per @Michael_Traikos. Went back to the locker room before rushes.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) June 2, 2018
I assume Kempny is going to play and just went for repairs. But anyway, Kuznetsov is in, as expected.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) June 2, 2018
Hockey players, they’re just like us: Perhaps to avoid the traffic related to the road closures around Capital One Arena, T.J. Oshie and Matt Niskanen rode the Metro to Game 3. Don’t worry, they made it to the arena on time, and were on the ice for pregame warm-ups. — SA
D.C. royalty in the house: Former Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs, the last coach to lead a D.C. team in one of the four major sports to a championship way back in 1992, will lead the “Let’s Go Caps!” chant before puck drop. During a pregame interview with NBC Sports Network, Gibbs joked that Alex Ovechkin would’ve made a great tight end for the Redskins and praised D.C. sports fans as the greatest in the world. “When they’re jacked up, they’re jacked up,” Gibbs said. Oh, they’re jacked up. — SA
— JoeGlo 📷🏈🏀⚾️🥊🏇🏼 (@JoeGlo1) June 2, 2018
I've never seen this place so full for warmups.
— Isabelle Khurshudyan (@ikhurshudyan) June 2, 2018
The show before the show: Wonder Woman actress Lynda Carter was among the Capitals fans who packed the streets outside Capital One Arena to see Sting and Shaggy headline a free concert on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery two hours before the game. — SA
— Lynda Carter (@RealLyndaCarter) June 2, 2018
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) June 2, 2018
Vrana about to break out?: Through the two games of the series, it’s been even at even strength. Washington has a slight edge over Vegas in scoring chances (42 to 41) and shot attempts in the high-danger areas, such as the slot or the crease (22 to 21), but both teams have scored five goals skating 5-on-5.
One player that could break the logjam is Jakub Vrana. The 22-year-old rookie leads the team in even-strength scoring chances (seven) and high-danger chances (5) with two rebounds created off goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury but has yet to light the lamp skating 5-on-5. That could end soon. His shooting rate in the playoffs (5.9 percent) is much lower than his regular-season rate (9.7 percent) and the conversion rate of his line, which often consists of T.J. Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom (6.1 percent).
There’s too much skill getting too many quality looks for them to be kept in check much longer. — NG
Fourth-line issues: The Golden Knights fourth line of Ryan Reaves, Tomas Nosek and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare have been a problem for the Capitals. That trio has outshot its opponents 21 to 8 in the Stanley Cup finals with two goals scored and none allowed. Plus, they have an 11-to-1 advantage in high-danger chances at even strength.
Home ice allows Barry Trotz to get last change, meaning Gerard Gallant must put his players on the ice first before faceoffs, giving Trotz the chance to dictate the matchups he wants. Obviously he should be very selective with which of his top six skaters go up against the Golden Knights shutdown line. — NG
Shadow ops: Vegas has been shadowing Alex Ovechkin on the power play, making sure at least one of the Golden Knights cuts off a pass in his direction on the penalty kill. And with good reason: Ovechkin has one of the best one-timers in the NHL, converting 5 of 28 shots (18 percent) during this playoff run. If he continues to have trouble getting settled over by his “office,” the left faceoff dot, the rest of the top power-play unit needs to turn it into a 4-on-3, focusing on creating rebounds from John Carlson at the point or Oshie and Kuznetsov around the goal mouth. — NG
“He’s so emotional about playing for the Cup,” coach Barry Trotz said of Ovechkin. “You can tell by the expressions on his face all the time, his emotion. One thing you can see is Alex keeps his emotions on his sleeve. It’s on the outside. It’s not on the inside. You know exactly what he’s thinking.”
Capitals fans who have watched heartbreak after playoff heartbreak easily could’ve been thinking the worst when Vegas scored early in the third period. Holtby — well-aware of the Golden Knights’ ability to cross up opposing goaltenders — had his puck-handling attempt intercepted by Bellemare. The puck skittered to Nosek for an easy goal.
Vegas built some momentum, but Devante Smith-Pelly gave the Capitals an insurance goal with 6:07 left — his fourth of the playoffs — after Jay Beagle took the puck away from Shea Theodore on the forecheck and found his teammate skating in alone on Fleury.
“I’ve always loved the playoffs,” Smith-Pelly said. “I love scoring the big goals. I don’t know what it is, but these kinds of games are the most fun to play in.”
Source: wtop.com, washingtonpost.com, denverpost.com