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Dan Dobish

Hockey Daily Dose

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Daily Dose: Two To Go

Sunday, June 3, 2018


The Washington Capitals returned home for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Finals, a pivotal game with the series tied 1-1 after two games in Las Vegas. It was the first Stanley Cup Final game at home for the Capitals since 1998, and the long-suffering fans of Washington were treated to a very good game by the home team. Alex Ovechkin helped his squad move within two victories of raising Lord Stanley's grail with an emphatic 3-1 win against the upstart Golden Knights. Let's get started!

 

Win or lose, the Capitals have already outperformed their brethren from the 1997-98 season. Washington was swept out of the Stanley Cup Finals by Steve Yzerman and the Detroit Red Wings, getting outscored 13-7. In that series the Caps scored exactly one goal in three of the contests, and in the outing they netted four they were upended in Game 2 at Joe Louis Arena. Game 3 on Saturday night was the first home game in the Stanley Cup Finals since June 16, 1998, the series-clinching win by the Red Wings by a 4-1 score. The last player to score a home goal in the Stanley Cup Finals for the Caps was Brian Bellows, who is now 53 years old, so that tells you a little bit about how long it has been.

 

In the first 20 minutes, Golden Knights netminder Marc-Andre Fleury and Capitals backstop Braden Holtby were serving up donuts. Alex Ovechkin broke the scoreless tie on a backhand shot 70 seconds into the second period, helped out by John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov. It was the Russian left winger's 14th goal of the postseason as he strengthens his resume for the Conn Smythe Trophy. He finished the game with an impressive 10 shots on goal, as he has really taken this team on his back and is playing with a ton of positive emotion. Of course, Kuznetsov and Holtby might have a little something to say about that award before this series comes to a close.

 

Kuznetsov, who was making his way back from an upper-body injury, bagged his 12th of the playoffs on a snap shot past Fleury, helped out by Jay Beagle and T.J. Oshie midway through the second period. While he made it through the game without any setbacks, Michal Kempny was forced to get stitches on the bridge of his nose to close a gash. It was a freak injury, as he stepped on a puck in pregame warmups and slammed face-first into the boards. Kempny is a hockey player, though, and he toughed it out for one shot on net, three hits and three blocked shots over 17:23 of ice time.

 

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Brooks Orpik was forced out of the game after a hard hit in the second period. James Neal, who is quickly becoming Public Enemy No. 1 in Washington, delivered a hard hit on a reverse body check against the rearguard. He initially stayed in the game before checking out midway through the third period. Bench boss Barry Trotz didn't sound terribly concerned about Orpik's health, so it's a good bet he'll draw right back in for Game 4.

 

The Golden Knights haven't found themselves behind very often in these playoffs. And a two-goal deficit has been a very rare occurrence, speaking volumes about how impressive they have been in their initial foray into the postseason in their inaugural year. Early in the third period it was Tomas Nosek giving Capitals fans that old, nervous feeling when he beat Holtby with a wrister on a pass from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Holtby attempted to clear the puck from behind his net, but Bellemare deflected it to Nosek, who took advantage of the out of position netminder. Vegas made Washington pay for the mistake, slicing the lead in half.

 

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For Fleury, it was his first back-to-back losses since March 16 and 18 of the regular season. While he has an overall record of 13-5 with a 1.95 goals-against average (GAA) during the postseason, he has experienced some chinks in the armor in this series. Fleury has yielded 10 goals through three games against the Capitals. He yielded a total of just three goals in four games against Los Angeles in the first round, 14 total goals in six games against San Jose in the second round, and 10 goals in five outings against Winnipeg. Needless to say, Washington seems to have his number, and they obviously know Fleury and his tendencies from his days with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

The Capitals were not going to be punished on their own home ice, however. With just 6:07 remaining in regulation, Devante Smith-Pelly gave the team a little bit of insurance when he beat Fleury on a wrist shot. Beagle picked up his second helper of the evening, playing a huge part in the team's second win in the series. That was all of the scoring, as the Caps outscored the Knights 26-22, and the home team dominated in many facets. Washington won 39 faceoffs to just 23 for Vegas. And the Caps were sacrificing their bodies a lot more, too, logging 26 blocked shots and 38 hits to just nine blocks and 31 hits for the Golden Knights.

 

After the win, the Capitals are now favored in Game 4, as well as being heavy chalk to win the series, too. Washington is now listed as a -200 favorite to win the Stanley Cup, while Vegas is listed as +175 underdogs to win three of the next four games and raise the cup.

 

The series will continue Monday night in the nation's capital for Game 4, and the Golden Knights will be looking to square up the series and make it a best-of-three series for the championship.




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