The Golden Knights have trained people to believe that they’re always going to bounce back. All though this postseason, Vegas has shrugged off potentially game-changing goals from their opponents, like Tom Wilson’s tiebreaker in the third period of Game 1, and quickly reasserted control. But in a 3-2 loss to the Capitals tonight in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Finals, it was Washington who persevered to even the series, holding tight on their slim lead all through a tense final period.
Despite James Neal’s opening goal for the Knights eight minutes into the game—and the loss of Evgeny Kuznetsov, who exited the game in the first after a hit from Brayden McNabb—the Capitals offense didn’t take too long to settle into a comfy groove. Lars Eller scored at the end of the first period, and Alex Ovechkin got his first of the series in the next period to make it 2-1. Then, halfway through the game, Eller found Brooks Orpik for the defenseman’s first goal of the postseason, gifting their team a two-goal advantage.
Still, the lead was a shaky one for the Caps. Before the second period ended, Shea Theodore got a goal back for the Knights on the power play, and right after the intermission, Vegas received what seemed like a guaranteed chance at an equalizer. With Tom Wilson getting an interference penalty three minutes into the third, and Lars Eller following him into the box for hooking less than a minute later, Vegas enjoyed a five-on-three for 1:09, and then a 51-second five-on-four. The puck stayed in the Knights’ offensive zone for almost the entirety of that advantage, but none of their shots could beat Braden Holtby.
That’s when the belief that the Knights would pull out Game 2 may have started to die. A failed five-on-three might be the biggest momentum-killer in hockey, and for the next 10 minutes or so, Vegas couldn’t create much in the way of dangerous chances. But they still got an incredible one with two minutes to go, on a pass from Cody Eakin that gave Alex Tuch a clear view of goal from point blank, only to get shut down by Holtby’s stick. This is the kind of athletic brilliance needed to keep the Knights from tying a playoff game:
Game 2 was the Knights’ first regulation home loss of the playoffs, and this tough Capitals win sets us up for some more stellar hockey in the next two games in Washington. The Vegas crowd was fired up, and one of Washington’s best offensive players was injured, but the Capitals held strong and impressed. These Caps proved themselves every bit the equal of their opponents tonight—even if they won’t have Imagine Dragons to open their home games.