The Washington Capitals almost seem possessed after losing Game 1 to the Vegas Golden Knights in overtime. The last three games have seen the 44-year-old franchise take control, play smarter, harder and tap into the passion and drive needed to win the game – and win games is precisely what they have done.
Leading the finals 2-1 going into Game 4 in Washington last night, the Capitals once again scoring first after T.J. Oshie picked up a rebound in from of Fleury. For the first time in their history, Washington is one game win away from their first Stanley Cup Trophy.
Tom Wilson made it 2-1 for the Capitals late in the first with 3:35 left. The first period saw the Golden Knights and Washington almost even with shots on net. However, Vegas just seemed unable to capitalise on their scoring opportunities in the same way Washington did – maybe it was just heart.
Also scoring for the Capitals was Brett Connolly, John Carlson, Devante Smith-Pelly and Michal Kempny. Evgeny Kuznetsov earned four assists and now leads the playoffs with 31 points, Backstrom three T.J Oshie added two assists to his post-season record, and Matt Niskanen and Alexander Ovechkin also earned one assist each.
Speaking about last night’s success, Devante Smith-Pelly said.
“We’re close, but everyone here knows the fourth win is always the toughest. Until that buzzer goes, trying not to think about it too much.”
Reilly Smith and James Neal of the Golden Knights each scored one goal. Earning assists were Eric Haula, Jonathan Marchessault, Colin Miller and Luca Sbisa. Marc-Andre Fleury made 17 saves for the night.
The Golden Knights have now lost three games straight, a first since the beginning of December in the regular season for the expansion team. There has only been one team in the history of the NHL to come back from a three-game deficit – The Toronto Maple Leafs, and that was in 1941.
Game 4 will get underway on Thursday in Washington. If the Capitals are unable to win, the series will return to Vegas for Game 6 on Sunday, and if the hockey gods are on the side of the Golden Knights, Game 7 will return to Washington.
For Vegas, they are on the edge of being eliminated after a fairy tale season that saw the elimination team beat the odds, win the Western Conference Final and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. For Tom Wilson, this year has been a privilege. Commenting Wilson said,
“Kuznetsov just tells me to put my stick on the ice and he’ll hit it. It’s a privilege to play with him. He’s one of the best at his craft.”
After an onslaught of goals from Washington in the first, the Golden Knights missed three scoring opportunities. A shot from Erik Haula bounced off the post in the first minute of play, Reilly Smith missed an open net shot, and James Neal also had shot hit the post when Holtby was down.
Brayden Holtby knows the Capitals got some lucky breaks last night saying,
“”We obviously got some breaks at the start of the game. To be honest, I thought (the Neal chance) was in (from) my angle, and somehow it didn’t go in.”
The Golden Knights were just unable to dig themselves out of the hole they found themselves in. Gerard Gallant, head coach of the Golden Knights stated,
“”It was frustrating, I thought we played a pretty good game.”
For the Golden Knights – Game 5 is a must win, that or they will see an end to their opening season in the NHL. For the city of Las Vegas, it was the good news story the city needed after a tough year. Either way, it is one that will go down in the history books and one that will be talked about for years to come.