Difficulties on home ice?
The Washington Capitals put their struggles at Capital One Arena behind them in time for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 behind 21 saves from Braden Holtby and a suffocating defensive performance overall.
The Capitals are now up 2-1 over the expansion Golden Knights in the championship series, and are within two victories of capturing the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, while having erased a deficit in each series along the way.
Those deficits came in large part due to Washington’s surprisingly pedestrian 4-5 record at home in the playoffs headed into Cup Final.
Washington’s two leading scorers, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov, constructed the lead on Golden Knights netminder Marc-Andre Fleury in the second period before Devante Smith-Pelly whipped in an insurance marker in the late stages of the third.
As an icebreaker, Ovechkin closed a wild sequence that featured five shot attempts in the space of eight seconds with a lunging flip off his backhand at the 90-second mark of the second period. Ovechkin’s 14th goal of the postseason matched John Druce’s franchise mark for goals in a single postseason.
A little over 10 minutes later, and in transition, Kuznetsov beat Fleury clean with a gorgeous wrist shot from the left circle.
Then Kuznetsov flapped his wings as he rounded the net, demonstrating that the upper-body injury that threatened to hold him out wasn’t impacting his mobility too much.
Kuznetsov is one of few Capitals that hasn’t experienced an outage on home ice during the playoffs. His goal, No. 12 this spring, counted as his eighth point on a five-game scoring surge in Washington.
Vegas was held to five shots in the first period and was still stuck on single digits at the halfway mark of the second. An opportunistic, counter-attacking team, the Golden Knights did pull one back on a goal from Tomas Nosek (after a giveaway from Holtby), and did threaten before Smith-Pelly’s dagger, but exhibited that they are not a team built to chase games.
Now, they are chasing a series deeper than they have at any point in these playoffs, having lost two games in a row for the first time in these playoffs.
They need a win Monday in Game 4 to avoid an elimination Game 5 on home ice.
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