The game starts about how you would expect. Fast paced, forechecking from both teams, hard hits, and the puck seemingly always finding its way into the slot where it would be batted around numerous times before either finding its way into the net or dumped into the neutral zone.
The scoring starts with James “The Real Deal” Neal with absolutely beautiful puck awareness as he redirects a puck mid-air, that was dumped into the neutral zone by Vegas Defenseman Luca Sbisa, so that it bounces clear around Washington Defenseman Dmitry Orlov, setting him up with a 1-on-1 meeting with Goalie Braden Holtby. Neal blasts the puck over Holtby’s glove side shoulder, giving the Golden Knights a 1-0 lead 7:58 into the game.
It took about 10 minutes of back and forth, shot after shot, hard hitting hockey for the Golden Knights to equal up the score. A very aggressive scrum in front of the goal after a Marc-Andre Fleury save, got a little too aggressive for the referees liking, making the game 4-on-4 with 3:17 left in the 1st period. Not even a minute into the 4-on-4, Lars Eller of the Capitals nets a wide-open goal set up by a textbook set of passes by Michal Kempny and Andre Burakovsky, following a face-off win in their attacking zone.
The 1st period would end 1-1.
The 2nd period of this game was absolutely electric. 7 penalties, 3 goals, and at one point a span of over 6 minutes without a stoppage in play. The scoring started with none other than Alex Ovechkin at the 5:38 mark, being set up by Lars Ellar who threads the needle with a spot-on pass through the slot to the weak side, where Ovi does what he does best and finishes off the play with a goal. That would be his 13th goal of this Stanley Cup Playoffs. Shortly after, Brooks Orpik takes a shot from the left face-off zone, where the puck would deflect off a couple players, bounce off the ice, off the left post, and fly across the goal line and into the net, giving Washington a 3-1 lead.
Just when it looks like the Caps are going to start to run away with the game, Vegas Defenseman Shea Theodore shoots from near the blue line where the puck squeaks by essentially every player on the ice, including Holtby who never even saw it before hearing the horn go off and a Vegas crowd full of Elvis impersonators erupt into a frenzy.
The 2nd period would end with a 3-2 Capitals lead.
The 3rd period was short on goals scored, but definitely not short of excitement. The Vegas Golden Knights only need 1 goal to tie up the game, the crowd is behind them every time they push into their attacking zone and they even got a 5-on-3 for 1 minute and 9 seconds. The Knights had 21 shots in the 3rd period, and if not for the .949 save percentage by Holtby for the game, the Knights might have been able to send this game into overtime. Holtby had 37 total saves in this game, but none will be talked about quite like the “The Save”, as it is being called, will be. Holtby stopped what looked to be a wide-open goal for Vegas Winger Alex Tuch. Vegas was on a breakaway, and Tuch sneaking up from the back of the break was left wide open on the weak side. Vegas Center Cody Eakin placed a perfect pass to the trailing Tuch who saw nothing but net. The fans erupted, and Vegas players even seemed to look around confused as to where the puck went. Braden Holtby stretched across the net, only to place his stick EXACTLY where Tuch shot the puck, and somehow was able to pin it to the ground out of mid-air, using nothing but his stick. Caps fans have been waiting a long time for their shot at the cup, and this save will definitely be remembered in Washington for a long, long time. This is a save of the year candidate in my book. Take a look for yourself.
The Capitals fend off the empty netted Golden Knights for the remainder of the game, and even the series at 1-1. Game 3 will be in Washington this Saturday, June 2, and judging by how full Capitol One Arena was for games 1 and 2 (away games), that will be an atmosphere you don’t want to miss.
Game Key Notes:
- The Vegas Golden Knights outshot the Caps with 39-26 shots on goal.
- Washington Capitals Goalie Braden Holtby – 37 Saves, .949 Save %, “The Save”
- Washington Capitals Center Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game after a hard hit in the 1st Period, did not return.
This game was incredibly exciting to watch, as most playoff hockey games are. At any given time either team could have went on a break and netted a goal, both goalies were playing outstanding, there were lots of scoring opportunities, and the crowd was into it.
Vegas definitely had their chances to tie up the game but the save that Braden Holtby made, with 2 minutes left in the game, up by 1 goal, and down in 0-1 in your first ever Stanley Cup Finals, made me believe the Capitols were meant to win that game. Washington fans have been waiting a long time for a chance to win the cup, and they are filling their arena for away games. The atmosphere is going to be insane to watch with Game 3 in Washington, but as we know from watching this year’s playoffs, the home ice can be a recipe for disaster.