CAPS STRIKE BACK: Washington Holds Onto 3-2 Win Over Vegas to Even Stanley Cup Final

Posted on: May 30, 2018, 09:27h. 

Last updated on: May 31, 2018, 05:55h.

The Washington Capitals overcame an early injury to Evgeny Kuznetsov and another early opening goal by the Vegas Golden Knights to score a 3-2 win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, tying the series at one game apiece.

Stanley Cup Capitals Golden Knights
Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals makes a save during the first period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final. (Image: Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)

The Capitals were led by goalie Braden Holtby, who saved 37 of the 39 shots he faced, and Lars Eller, who contributed a goal and two assists.

Knights Start Strong, Caps Come Back

Echoing Game 1, the Golden Knights opened the scoring with a James Neal goal that came just under eight minutes into the game. But Vegas was unable to pile on, and Washington tied the score on Eller’s goal with under three minutes left in the opening period.

Washington would retain the momentum in the second period. Alex Ovechkin scored his first-ever Stanley Cup goal – his 13th of the playoffs – on the power play to give the Capitals their first lead of the game. At the midpoint of the second period, Brooke Orpik scored to extend the Washington advantage to two goals.

The Golden Knights clawed one back on the power play themselves, with Shea Theodore scoring to make the score 3-2 heading into the second intermission and seemingly take back the momentum.

No Goal When It Counts

But while Vegas had plenty of opportunities to build on that goal, Holtby stood in the way. The Golden Knights enjoyed over a minute of a five-on-three advantage early in the third following penalties by Tom Wilson and Eller. But when the Knights failed to score despite peppering the Washington goal with pucks for two minutes, what momentum Vegas may have had seemed to evaporate.

The home team would have one more golden opportunity before the game ended. A strange bounce off the back board game Cody Eakin the opportunity to pass to Alex Tuch just feet in front of a wide open net with just two minutes left to play. But Holtby reached back with his stick to prevent what seemed to be a sure goal, making what may have been the biggest save of his career to this point.

Vegas wasn’t able to find a goal in the final minutes, leaving Washington with a 3-2 win.

“We played smart. We played hard,” Ovechkin said after the game. “Holtby made unbelievable saves.”

The Kuznetsov injury could be a major factor for the rest of the series. Golden Knights defenseman Brayden McNabb sidelined the Washington forward with a hit in front of the penalty boxes with just over five minutes left in the first period. Kuznetsov did not return to the game, with the Capitals only saying he had an upper-body injury.

Should Kuznetsov miss additional time, he would be a serious loss for Washington. He is the leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this year, having contributed 11 goals and 14 assists in the postseason.

The Capitals now have home ice advantage in the series, and they’ll host Game 3 on Saturday.

The loss by the Golden Knights may have some local oddsmakers breathing a sigh of relief. According to a report by the Washington Post, Las Vegas sports books may stand to lose as much as $7 million should the Knights win the Stanley Cup, with many locals having taken bets on the expansion franchise at odds of 200/1 or higher before the season began.

But while that may sound like a big number, many Sin City bookmakers say they’re still rooting for the home team.

“The majority of us are all rooting for them,” Jay Kornegay of the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook told the Post. “Everyone here is onboard and happy to have something like the Golden Knights to root for.”