Capitals beat Knights 4-3 to secure their first Stanley Cup Title

Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals were able to lay their playoff demons to rest and finally win a Stanley Cup after they beat the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

In the moments leading up to the game Washington forward Alex Ovechkin took part in some early gamesmanship with Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleurys by slashing his stick in the pregame warm ups before Fleury returned the favor with a stick to Ovechkin’s leg. Both teams were ready to set the tempo and physical even before the game started with the faces of both franchises ready to go.

Game 5 got off to a fast, physical start for both teams with little to distinguish them. Both teams exchanged rushes of offense zone time for the first several minutes of the game. The physicality ramped up early with a huge hit from Capitals forward Tom Wilson on Knights’ forward William Karlsson, that appeared to injure him on the play as he was slow to return to Vegas’ bench. However, he was able to play for the rest of the game.

The Capitals were given an early opportunity to take the lead with a powerplay with just under ten minutes to go. Early into their man advantage, Ovechkin rang a shot off of the post, the Capitals’ best chance to grab an early game 5 lead on the power play.

The Knights were able to kill the penalty and prevent the Capitals from grabbing the early lead. This power play proved to be the best opportunity for either team to score in the first but the teams headed into the intermission tied at zero.

Seconds into the second period, the T.J. Oshie was able to draw a tripping penalty to put the Capitals back onto the power play. The Capitals were unable to score on the power play after some great goalkeeping from Fleury, who had stopped all twelve shots he had faced up to that point in the game.

Immediately after the end of Washington’s power play, Vegas drew a penalty for a high stick, giving them their first power play of the game. Like the Capitals’ power plays, the Golden Knights were unsuccessful on their first one.

With thirteen minutes to go in the first, the Capitals took advantage of an opportunity to counter attack and forward Jakub Vrana beat Fleury glove side to give the Capitals the first goal of the game.

Three minutes later Vegas was able to equalize with a shot from Nate Schmidt that deflected off the skate of Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen. Seconds later Vegas committed another penalty to put Washington back on the power play. Just seconds in Ovechkin was able to take advantage and put the Capitals back on top. However, the lead would not last as David Perron would tie the game up at two just two minutes later.

With a little over two minutes to go in the second Ovechkin tripped Vegas forward William Karlsson, giving the Knights a power play for nearly the remainder of the period. This time former bruin Reilly Smith was able to find the back of the net for his second goal in as many games and to give Vegas its first lead of the game with thirty seconds remaining in the second. However, a scrum ensued following the goal leading to penalties against Brooks Orpik and Alex Tuch and a four on four situation.

After a five goal second period, the teams entered the final frame with the Golden Knights up three to two.

The action picked up immediately in the third with the teams trading excellent opportunities with the goalies robbing a goal each, all within the first two minutes. Five minutes into the period, the Capitals would get their first opportunity at a power play in the final frame. The best opportunity on the power play came from Vegas when forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare intercepted a pass and had a breakaway but was shut down by a great defensive effort from Ovechkin.

With ten minutes left in the game Washington forward Devante Smith-Pelly did his best Bobby Orr impression and scored the game-tying goal, which was his third straight game with a goal. Brooks Orpik was just barely able to keep the puck in the zone and was able to find a way to get the puck back to the net.

The Capitals were not done scoring yet, with seven to go forward Lars Eller found the puck on a second chance opportunity and was able to find the back of the net and give Washington the lead. The Knights would not be able to score and the Capitals were able to secure their first Stanley Cup Title in the team’s 44 year history.

For Vegas to come so close to a title in the first year of their existence is something that has to be recognized. After the tragic shooting in Las Vegas last fall, the city needed something to rally around and the Knights gave them that by having unprecedented success for an expansion team in their first year with 51 wins and a Finals appearance. Vegas was also able to prove that it deserved to have an NHL team with the passion the fans displayed throughout the team’s inaugural season.

After the game, Alex Ovechkin was named the Conn Smythe trophy winner, the award given to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, for being the playoff leader in goals and leading the Capitals to their first title. Ovechkin is a generational talent and will finally be able to add his name to Lord Stanley’s Cup and effectively cement his place in NHL history.

Photo from Bleacher Report on Twitter

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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.

Capitals beat Golden Knights 3-1 to take 2-1 series lead

Despite a heroic effort from Las Vegas Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, the Knights were unable to keep up with Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals’ high-powered offense.

It was a fast start with little to distinguish the two teams. Both the Capitals and Golden Knights traded opportunity after opportunity but the goalies stood tall throughout the first period. Early in the first, a potential first goal for the Capitals was waved off after Devante Smith-Pelly interfered with Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, sending the Knights to the power play, which the Capitals were able to kill.

Fleury’s play in particular sttod out in the first after robbing Alex Ovechkin of several scoring opportunities, including this beautiful save:

However, the tie would not last as Ovechkin was able to score just a minute into the second period after a Fleury save that rebounded the puck right to him in front of net.

After getting a power play halfway through the second, the Capitals were nearly able to add to the lead seconds into the man advantage after T.J. Oshie deflected a Nicklaus Backstrom shot off of the post. Just moments after the power play ended, Evgeny Kuznetsov doubled the Capitals’ lead. For Kuznetsov, there were serious concerns about his availability to play after suffering an upper body injury during the first period of Wednesday’s game. Despite allowing two goals in the period, Fleury was able to add to his highlight reel of saves after this incredible display of nearly inhuman reflexes:

Going into the third the Capitals still maintained a two goal lead with the teams on a four on four situation following tripping penalties from Smith-Pelly and Fleury at the end of the second.

Minutes into the third period, the Knights were able to cut the lead in half after a goal from Tomas Nosek after a questionable flip into traffic from Capitals’ goalie Braden Holtby. However, Smith-Pelly was able to pad the Capitals’ lead after an assist from Jay Beagle, his second of the night, with just six minutes to go in the game. With two and a half minutes to go, Fleury headed to the bench so the Knights could get an extra attacker on the ice, leading to an onslaught of offensive opportunities for Vegas.

The Caps were able to survive the attack and maintained their 3-1 lead through the end of the period. For Vegas, this is the first time that they have lost two games in a row in the entirety of the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The teams will have a day to rest before they face off again on Monday night in our nation’s capital.

Image courtesy of sporting news