With a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, and a rough history of home success in the post season, could the Washington Capitals come out in Game 4 at home and take themselves one step closer to greatness?
Oh, could they ever.
Here’s Monday night’s Plus/Minus:
Plus: The Washington Capitals are one win away from the Stanley Cup. One. Win.
Minus: The Capitals headed into the final frame with a shutout cooking, but managed to let Vegas get two back. You know, for moral support.
And now, this...
Ten more notes on the game:
1. After winning Game 3 at home on Saturday night – the first home Stanley Cup Final victory in franchise history – could the Capitals come out swinging in Game 4 by winning both contests at home and pushing Vegas to the brink?
2. The Capitals’ superstars turned in performances to match in Game 3, with both Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov recording goals and Braden Holtby standing on his head like a Cirque du Soleil East act. Could the Three Frozen Amigos stay hot in Game 4?
3. It was undoubtedly Vegas who came out with a chip on their shoulder pads early in this one. The first ten minutes of the first period were all Golden Knights, and only stellar play from The Holtbeast kept Washington alive. In fact, just a few minutes into the frame, Vegas’ James Neal somehow, somehow, flubbed a wide open opportunity to score, and instead hit the post in a moment I’m calling Son of The Save.
4. Right around the halfway mark of the first period, after withstanding a cyclonic onslaught from the Golden Knights’ offense, Lars Eller drew a tripping penalty at center ice. And because Fate and Hockey are cruel mistresses, twin sirens drawing teams to their unjust doom, the Capitals scored on the power play almost immediately. Real American Hero T.J. Oshie collected the puck at his feet near the crease and got a timely paddle on the puck, popping it into the net to give Washington a 1-0 lead early.
5. Washington saw their opportunity to stake a big red Weagle in Mt. Momentum and took it. With 3:30 left in the frame, Big Tom Wilson, Man of Seismic Sorrows, collected the puck in the slot, turned, and slung it past Marc-Andre Fleury to put the Capitals up 2-0 still in the first.
6. But the Capitals weren’t done in the first period! Devante Smith-Pelly, perhaps the single most clutch human being currently walking the earth, decided it was about time to score his 6th goal of these playoffs (he had 7 goals all regular season). He roofed a bullet past Fleury and lifted Washington to a 3-0 lead at the first intermission.
7. The second period has been, in the past, when a Washington squad might lift its foot off the pedal just a smidge. Not this time. Holtby continued to guard his crease like a junkyard sasquatch, and at the other end, with five minutes remaining in the middle stanza, Captain America John Carlson took control on the power play. Switched with Ovechkin, he kicked his feet up in Ovi’s Office™ and fired a certified cruise missile of his own, bombing the back of the twine to make it 4-0 Capitals after forty.
8. In the third period, Vegas made a push, their season hanging in the balance like tumbling craps table dice. After just killing off an Evgeny Kuznetsov offensive zone penalty, James Neal potted one to cut the lead to 4-1. And then, with 7:34 left in the contest, top-line stud Reilly Smith was left all alone in the low circle and made Washington pay, denting the twine and bringing the Golden Knights back within two, 4-2.
9. But, as they’ve done so many times this postseason, the Capitals said, Not today, not this team. On a 4-on-4 with both Tom Wilson and Vegas’ Ryan Reaves, the two designated goons cum laude, in the penalty box for roughing, Michal Kempny finished off an odd-man rush for Washington with a one-timer blast, lifting the Caps to a 5-2 lead late.
10. And after TJ Oshie took exception to a clear boarding penalty by Deryk Engelland, and both gentlemen were excused from the proceedings with late game misconduct penalties (Oshie receiving chants of OSH-IE, OSH-IE from the Capital One Arena crowd as he headed down the tunnel), The Con Man Brett The Threat, Brett Connolly, flung the dagger into the back of Vegas’ net and completed the touchdown, securing the Capitals a 6-2 victory.
Evgeny Kuznetsov quietly had himself a 4-point night. He now has 31 points in these playoffs, tying him for 20th most all-time in a single postseason in NHL history.
Marc-Andre Fleury, for his part, turned in a 17-of-23 night for a .739 SV%, a precipitous decline for the one-time Conn Smythe Trophy favorite.
The Washington Capitals are now one win away from the Stanley Cup.
Sixty minutes from forever.
One game from immortality.
Game 5 is at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas on Thursday.
Let’s Go Caps.