After losing a wild game 1, the Washington Capitals said they knew the adjustments they needed to make. Now, just 5 days later they have become the first team to defeat the Golden Knights in back-to-back games in the playoffs. A 3-1 win Saturday night giving them a 2-1 series lead.
Washington Capitals Happy To Have Kuznetsov Back
Despite having only a 4-5 record on home ice in this playoffs, the Capitals came out fast in game 3. The inclusion of Evgeny Kuznetsov was a big boost prior to the game, and the Caps laid their plan out early. Attacking with speed, and neat passing going forward and moving the puck quickly cross-ice on the defensive end.
Despite the attacking intent of both teams, it was the first scoreless opening period of the finals. Vegas at times seeming to cross the line between frenetic and frantic. Marc-Andre Fleury was back to his best though, making an insane diving save as the capitals looked to build momentum and an early lead.
It didn’t take long into the second period for the Capitals to take the lead. In an 11 second spell they laid siege to Fleury’s goal, taking 6 shots, one blocked, one wide, and finally hitting the net. Alex Ovechkin diving over bodies to back-hand the puck past the flailing Fleury. It was a lead they would never surrender.
The Knights came more into the game, more discipline descending on them after the goal. But it was the Washington Capitals who would score next. T.J. Oshie creating the turnover in the Caps end and setting them away on a 3-on-1 rush. Kuznetsov firing home the wrist shot from the circle between Fleury’s pad and stick. In truth, it was no more than the Capitals deserved.
The Golden Knights came out with more intensity in the third but they couldn’t seem to muster much offensively. They would finish the night with just 22 shots on goal, their only goal coming as a result of a mistake from Braden Holtby. Holtby opting to clear, rather than go back around the boards from behind the crease. His clearance was blocked by Bellemare and gratefully slotted into the empty net by Tomas Nosek.
Holtby Has A Stellar Game
It was the only blemish on another great night from Holtby who made 21 saves on the way to his 14th win of these playoffs. Fleury likewise couldn’t have done much more, as his .885 save percentage didn’t reflect the level of his play. Devante Smith-Pelly put home the clinching goal at 7:35 in the third as he was put clean through on Fleury’s goal.
The Golden Knights will look to rebound quickly for game 4. Their shooting was very poor in game 3 as they got a number of very good looks but seemed intent on hitting the corners rather than applying pressure to Holtby. Even after 2 periods of lacklustre shooting they didn’t make the adjustments which was surprising for a team that has seemed so prescient most of the season.