Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant for months has talked about his team’s hard work, their ability to battle and devotion to playing a full “200 feet of hockey.”
In pockets of Game 2 in the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, the Golden Knights were surprisingly outworked, outbattled and outhustled in losing 3-2 to the Washington Capitals. Game 3 is Saturday night in Washington and Vegas is going to need to up the energy level even further in a frantic series with scoring chances galore.
Vegas outshot the Capitals in Game 2, 39-26, but the hustle stats went to Washington, which handed the expansion club just its second home loss of the postseason. Washington had 18 blocked shots to eight for Vegas, helping goaltender Braden Holtby turn things around. He allowed five goals in the opener but was sublime in Game 2 as he made 37 saves — none bigger than stopping Alex Tuch with the paddle of his stick in a sprawling move with just 1:59 left.
And while Washington outhit the Golden Knights, 46-39, it was some of Vegas’ bigger hits that ignited the Capitals in the second period.
Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb flattened Washington’s first-line forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, sending him to the dressing room with a little more than five minutes left in the first period. He didn’t return.
With Kuznetsov out, Washington coach Barry Trotz added Nicklas Backstrom to his top line with Alex Ovechkin and Tom Wilson. And 5:38 into the second period, with the game tied at 1-all and the Capitals on a power play, Ovechkin scored his first career Stanley Cup Final goal to give the Capitals a 2-1 lead.
From there, Vegas unraveled and gave up more uncharacteristic chances in front of Marc-Andre Fleury, who has yet to lose consecutive games this postseason.
A little less than four minutes after Ovechkin scored, Brooks Orpik broke a 220-game goal drought with the eventual game winner. It was his first goal since Feb. 26, 2016.
Though the Golden Knights outshot Washington 15-6 in the third period, the Capitals skated faster, competed better, worked harder and played smarter to steal home-ice advantage with their first-ever Final win.
The Capitals return to Capital One Arena, where they have just a 4-5 record in the postseason.
More Stanley Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/StanleyCupFinals
This story has been corrected to Tuch.