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Game 3 Recap: Washington Keeps the Pedal Down, Overpowers Vegas 3-1

The Washington Capitals never trailed Saturday, leading the Vegas Golden Knights start-to-finish to win Game 3 and take a 2-1 series lead at Capital One Arena.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Three Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Washington Capitals hosted the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday, the first Stanley Cup Final game in Washington in two decades. It was time to have some fun.

Here’s Saturday night’s Plus/Minus:

Plus: Washington’s biggest stars came to play, and the Capitals are two wins away from a Stanley Cup.

Minus: Braden Holtby made a little oopsie early in the third period. Fortunately, it did not sink the Caps’ schooner.

And now, this...

Ten more notes on the game:

1. After winning Game 2 by a score of 3-2 in Las Vegas, and the series evened up and effectively split, could the Capitals come back out in Game 3 in Washington and take a series lead in front of the hometown crowd at Capital One Arena?

2. The big question on everyone’s red-rocking lips was two little Russian words: Evgeny Kuznetsov? After appearing to hurt his wrist or forearm early in Game 2, would the Capitals have their leading playoff point producer back in the lineup? Spoiler Alert: YES! Kuzy was announced as in, and the Washington faithful breathed a muted hallelujah across the metropolitan area.

3. The first real action came just six minutes into the first period. After exchanging several salivating shots back and forth, WASHINGTON STRUCK FIRST! Chandler Stephenson ripped a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury and-........nope, it was waved off for goaltender interference. Devante Smith-Pelly’s formidable derriere collided with Fleury’s noggin so hard it almost knocked the goaltender into la semaine prochaine, and this one remained scoreless. The Capitals killed the ensuing minor penalty, and a whole city held its breath. It remained 0-0 until the first buzzer.

4. And Washington didn’t take long to strike in the second stanza. Just sixty-one seconds into the frame, Marc-Andre Fleury found himself tossed asunder in the violent Red wash. Flower eventually made his way back to the crease in time to deny a John Carlson whack, but the acrobatic netminder didn’t account for O Captain My Captain, Alex Ovechkin. Falling over, the Great Eight chopped an all-heart desperation backhand high over Fleury’s pad and into the back of the net, staking the Caps to a 1-0 lead. The building erupted.

5. Later in the second period, Washington got a little more Russian intervention. After T.J. Oshie made a gorgeous high-effort defensive play in his own zone to turn the puck over and breakout the Capitals, Evgeny Kuznetsov collected it and led Washington on a 3-on-1 the other way. The Boy Who Scored called his own number, and ripping a wicked snipe under Fleury’s armpit, Kuzy’s doozy put the Caps up by twozy.

6. The score would hold until the final intermission, and the Washington Capitals headed into the final twenty minutes holders of The Most Dangerous Lead In Hockey.

7. And it looked like the old adage was going to hold true early on. Just four minutes into the third period, Braden Holtby did his very best Fleury impression at the very worst time, misplaying a puck behind his own net and accidentally sliding a lay-up to Vegas’ Tomas Nosek. Nosek stuffed it in, and brought the Golden Knights back within one with a whooooooole lot of hockey left to be played.

8. But with single digit minutes showing on the ol’ clock, Washington’s fourth line grabbed their hard hats and went to work. Jay Beagle turned over Vegas’ Shea Theodore on the forecheck, and fed Devante Smith-Pelly. DSP, he of 7 goals all regular season, decided it was juuuust about time to ring up his 5th of these playoffs, and big number 25 went full Devante Snipe-Celly, beating Fleury to lift the Caps to a 3-1 lead.

9. The score would hold despite Vegas pulling their goalie, and this one went into the record books as a 3-1 Capitals win. It is the first home Stanley Cup Final victory in Capitals franchise history! Fight for Old DC, boys!

10. Except for his one extremely sizeable and significant gaffe, Holtby was otherwise strong again tonight. He saved 21-of-22 shots for a .955 SV%, and continues to be a calming force for this helter-skelter Caps squad.

The Washington Capitals are now two (2) wins away from a Stanley Cup.

You read that right.

Game 4 is Monday at Capital One Arena.

Game highlights: