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|In a single nine-minute stretch of the third period Micah Hyde Jersey , the Washington Capitals dramatically took the lead before the Vegas Golden Knights replied with two goals of their own. Washington’s Tom Wilson also flattened Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault with a blindside hit that could reverberate through the Stanley Cup Final. After 10 goals and a Final-record four lead changes overall in a fantastically entertaining opener, it’s tough to imagine what these unlikely opponents will do for an encore.
But the upstart Golden Knights have spent their entire inaugural season speeding past all expectations, and their first Final game didn’t slow them down in the slightest.
Tomas Nosek scored the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, and the expansion Golden Knights surged past the Capitals for a 6-4 victory on Monday night.
”We put fun ahead of everything, and you can tell,” said Ryan Reaves, who scored the Knights’ tying goal in the third period. ”Guys have are having fun and they’re smiling.”
The Eastern Conference champion Capitals hadn’t given up this many goals in 29 games since March 18, but they hadn’t seen anything like this charmed run by the upstart Knights. With its sellout crowd of hometown fans at deafening volume all night, Vegas put its usual speed and relentlessness on full display while overcoming that third-period deficit to win the opener of a matchup between two franchises seeking their first Stanley Cup titles.
Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves in an occasionally shaky performance, but the three-time Stanley Cup winner’s new teammates carried the goalie who has so often carried them with a relentless outburst of offense.
”We’re a good defensive group, but we weren’t tonight,” Marchessault said. ”They’re a team that’s very fast in the neutral zone, and we gave them too much respect with the puck. We need to be faster in the defensive zone. We’re going to fix that in our game.”
The Game 1 winner has won the last six Cups and 61 of 78 overall.
Braden Holtby stopped 28 shots for the Capitals, whose first Stanley Cup Final game in 20 years was a defensive nightmare. Washington still played a strong offensive game and had chances to win, but never slowed the Knights.
”I think next game is going to be different Dalvin Tomlinson Jersey , and all the nervousness, all the bad thing goes away in this game,” said captain Alex Ovechkin, who had an assist. ”We just have to forget about it and bounce back (in the) next one.”
Wilson got credit for the goal that put the Caps up 4-3 early in the third period when Fleury back-heeled a loose puck into his own net, but Reaves evened it 91 seconds later for Vegas.
Nosek then put the Knights ahead after Shea Theodore kept the puck in Washington’s zone, sidestepped a defender and fired a beautiful cross-ice pass to the Czech forward, who buried a one-timer for his second goal of the playoffs.
Colin Miller, William Karlsson and Reilly Smith scored early goals before Nosek added an empty-netter for the Knights, who are three wins away from one of the most improbable championships in recent North American team sports history. Just 342 days after the Knights selected the backbone of their first roster in the expansion draft, Vegas had another party on the Strip with its remarkable collection of castoffs.
Brett Connolly, Nicklas Backstrom and John Carlson also scored for Washington, but its biggest stars didn’t match the Knights’ outburst. Along with Ovechkin’s quiet night, Evgeny Kuznetsov – who scored a whopping 24 points in the first three rounds – also had just one assist.
The Golden Knights’ playoff pregame shows have been a celebration of Vegas showmanship, and their first Final game started with an extravaganza that included archers, a trebuchet and a spectacular light show.
And then the Knights and Caps put on a high-energy production of their own with plenty of fireworks and drama.
With none of the customary caution or high-pressure effects often shown by teams and players in their first game on the NHL’s biggest stage Ted Ginn Jr Jersey , Vegas and Washington jumped right into an up-tempo thriller. Vegas had outscored its opponents 10-0 in the first period at home during the playoffs, but the Caps got two goals.
After Miller scored the Knights’ first goal on a power play and ended Holtby’s scoreless streak at nearly 167 minutes, Washington calmly surged ahead later in the first period with goals 42 seconds apart.
The wild scoring continued in the third with an own-goal by Fleury, who lost track of a rebound and kicked it backward into his net.
T-Mobile Arena was only quiet for a few seconds before the tying goal from Reaves, who cross-checked Carlson to the ice an instant before the puck unexpectedly bounced to him for an uncontested shot.
Reaves didn’t score at all in his first 26 games after joining the Knights in a trade, but the rough-and-tumble forward broke through with the winning goal in the Western Conference finals clincher against Winnipeg.
Wilson delivered his crushing open-ice hit moments later to Marchessault, who was shaken up on the play. The Golden Knights uniformly criticized it as a late hit, while the rambunctious Wilson defended himself.
”I haven’t obviously slowed it down and looked at it, but I think he’d probably say he shouldn’t have admired his pass, and I’m just finishing my check,” Wilson said.
”I think the league is going to take care of it,” Marchessault said. ”I never see him coming. Puck is away for a couple seconds for sure. But whatever. He& Isiah Kiner-Falefa was only five games into his first Triple-A season when he got called up by the Texas Rangers in early April. A few days later, Ronald Guzman got promoted and also made his big-league debut.
When Texas reached the midpoint of the regular season this week, the 23-year-old rookies were among eight position players on the roster who are 25 or younger.
While the Rangers were on a 70-win pace after a loss in the 81st of their 162 games, they’ve had a recent uptick. They have won nine of their last 11 games while claiming four consecutive series in a stretch when veteran stalwarts Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus were finally back in the lineup together.
In the 82nd game Wednesday night Dalvin Cook Jersey , when the Rangers (36-46) started the second half of their schedule before an off day Thursday, lefty Mike Minor took a perfect game into the seventh of a 5-2 victory over San Diego. Keone Kela, the hard-throwing 25-year-old closer, got his 20th save – the most in the majors without a blown chance and a club record to start a season.
”When you take all the individual parts of the first half and you look and evaluate players of where they’re trending, they’re trending in the right direction athletically as well as mentally of how they play the baseball game,” fourth-year manager Jeff Banister said. ”We’ve gained some knowledge, and some guys have proven to themselves that they can play at this level and where they’re at and what they need to work on.”
General manager Jon Daniels has said publicly several times that the team’s priority this season is the development of its young players.
Young sluggers Nomar Mazara and Joey Gallo were already regulars in the lineup before this season, along with second baseman Rougned Odor. Speedy center fielder Delino DeShields has been a constant since returning from a broken bone in his left hand, an injury that occurred the first weekend of the season.
”Our coaches, they’ve put that development hat on,” Banister said. ”You watch them every day on the field, different players working on different things that we feel like they’re going to these players out for the longer term, for the bigger picture.”
Kiner-Falefa was called up when Odor, the 23-year-old already in his fourth season with Texas, went on the disabled list with a left hamstring strain. Andrus Arden Key Jersey , the shortstop in his 10th season at age 29, suffered a broken elbow when hit by a pitch just a couple of days later. Beltre had more hamstring issues.
”Everything happened so quick,” said Kiner-Falefa, who has two starts at catcher after previous starts at second base, third base and shortstop. ”I’m trying to soak it all in. … It’s been a cool experience. I’ve had the opportunity to learn from everyone here, and all the veterans.”
Guzman has 51 starts at first base, though he is on the seven-day concussion disabled list. The Rangers were batting when Guzman slammed his head into a knee on an attempted pickoff Monday.
Profar was 19 when he homered in his first big league at-bat in 2012, but he missed all of the 2014 and 2015 seasons because of right shoulder issues. He split each of the last two seasons between the Rangers and Triple-A Round Rock, but has started at all four infield positions this year in his most consistent action in the majors.
”I’ve got a really good chance to experience the big leagues, a lot of things that you want to work to be consistent on,” Profar said. ”We have very good young players here, we’re all learning. It’s going to be good for us going down the road.”
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