Vegas Collapses as Washington takes 3-1 Series Lead

Things went from bad to worse for the Las Vegas Golden Knights after getting crushed by the Washington Capitals 6-2 in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

After being thoroughly outplayed by the Capitals in Game 3, the Knights fought to get off to a fast start with several scoring opportunities just minutes into the game. In the first five minutes Vegas led Washington in scoring opportunities at five to one. Early into a first period power play called when John Carlson was caught for tripping, Vegas forward James Neal was nearly able to capitalize with an early shot on an open net that rang off the far post.

The Capitals were able to withstand the early onslaught and responded with a strong offensive presence of their own in the final ten minutes of the first, kickstarted by the opening goal of the game for Washington. On the Capitals’ first power play of the game, forward T.J. Oshie was able to show some fancy footwork and take advantage of a rebound off of Knights’ goalie Marc-Andre Fleury and find the back of the net to give the Capitals an early 1-0 lead. A defensive miscue left Oshie wide open on the opposite side of the net without a defender in sight after Tomas Nosek failed to track him when the Capitals entered the offensive zone and was left in the dust with Oshie in position to put the puck in the net.

However, the Capitals were not done in the first, with just over three minutes left in the first, forward Tom Wilson was able to double the lead after receiving a cross ice pass from forward Evgeny Kuznetsov. Then with just seconds to go forward Devante Smith-Pelly found the back of the net for the second game in a row to put the Capitals up 3-0 with twenty seconds left in the first.

In the second Vegas fought back drawing two penalties in the first ten minutes and played well but were unable to execute despite ample scoring opportunities. In that time alone the Knights rang four more shots off the post in addition to the several shots off the pipes in the first. Throughout the entire period, the Knights had plenty of opportunities to cut into the lead including two power plays but could not capitalize. Unfortunately for Vegas, the Capitals could.

With five minutes to go in the second, the Capitals were on their second power play of the game and Carlson was able score the fourth goal of the game following Kuznetsov’s second assist.

Despite Vegas’ numerous chances in the period, they could not find a way to get the puck past Washington goalie Braden Holtby who had an excellent second period, stopping anything and everything that came his way.

Early in the third, the four goal deficit seemed to be a back breaker for the Knights. The first several minutes proved to be an incredibly sloppy run of play for Vegas, including a careless slashing call against forward Erik Haula. This was the first power play of the night for Washington that did not result in a goal. Seconds after the successful penalty kill for Vegas, the Capitals surrendered a penalty of their own. After being 0-4 on the power play heading into this one, Neal was finally able to put the puck in the back of the net and cut into Washington’s lead.

With seven minutes to go Vegas forward and former Bruin Reilly Smith was able to cut the lead in half after a nifty forehand to backhand move to beat Holtby and show that the Knights weren’t going to go out quietly. The Capitals responded almost immediately with the teams in a four on four situation with a goal from defenseman Michal Kempny after a couple of slick passes from Oshie and Nicklaus Backstrom.

Kempny’s goal proved to be the nail in the coffin for Vegas in Game 4. In the moments following his goal, you could tell that the Knights were ready for the game to be over and any energy they had was gone. Starting with three minutes in the game, Vegas gave up two incredibly careless penalties to put the Capitals in a 5 on 3 power play. With two minutes left Capitals coach Barry Trotz put out his best power play lineup, which led to a scrum between the teams leading to Oshie and Deryk Engelland being tossed from the game.

In the ensuing power play, Smith-Pelly scored his second goal of the game to put the Capitals up 6-2, a score that would not change for the rest of the game.

The series shifts back to Las Vegas for Game 5 on Thursday and the Knights have to be hoping that they can correct some of their mistakes and try to claw their way back from a 3-1 deficit in the series.

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