The opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals lived up to billing, as the Vegas Golden Knights won a wild one 6-4 on Memorial Day. Despite trailing for the first time on home ice in these playoffs, Vegas kept playing their game and harried the Capitals to take a 1-0 series lead.
Wild And Crazy Game 1
The Golden Knights got off to a fast start, as they have in every playoff game. It took them a little longer than usual to get that first goal, but it was typical Vegas. Pressing the puck high in the zone, using their team speed to create double teams. Using their speed to create turnovers they stopped the Caps clearing the puck on an early powerplay. Miller took the puck inside the right point and fired a slap shot low to the left of Holtby. Holtby was unsighted by his own defender, but Miller found the bottom corner perfectly.
The Caps settled into the game a bit more after that. They increased their forechecking and were creating good scoring chances. However, their accuracy was off in the early stages as they failed to test Fleury. When they did start hitting the target they had immediate success.
Playing his first playoff game since 2007 Fleury looked nervous at times, and was definitely not at his best. Two goals in 42 seconds gave the Capitals the lead, as first Connolly and then Backstrom beat the stopper.
Golden Knights Respond Quickly
In what was a mirror image of their whole season, the Knights responded to adversity quickly. They moved the puck quickly from back to front and peppered Holtby with two shots, both wide of the mark. But it was a microcosm of the game as the Knights won beneath the goal line both times, and Karlsson banked the puck in off Holtby.
If the Capitals don’t up their speed and intensity in their own zone this series could be over quickly. While the Caps were creating high-value scoring positions, their shots were nearly always contested. For the Golden Knights, there seemed so much space in the forward third.
A Moment Of Magic From Oshie
With the Golden Knights leading 3-2 in the second period, a moment of pure skill from T.J. Oshie lit up the arena. A give and go with Carlson was completed with a sublime backhand pass that had Fleury completely out of position. A simple finish from Carlson tied the game at 3.
The Capitals weren’t done as they took the lead at 1:10 of the third period. But that was as good as it got. Vegas responded quickly again, with Reeves leveling the game just 91 seconds later. Nosek scored the final two, one an empty netter, as the Golden Knights closed out an epic game 1.
It’s the first time in Stanley Cup Finals history that there have been 4 lead changes. It was end to end most of the night, but the Knights had the better of a close game. Their speed in the attacking zone creating them much more space. Whilst outhitting the Knights overall, the Caps were off the pace in their own zone.
Game 2 comes on Wednesday night in Vegas.