Story highlights: The Washington Capitals held on for a nail-biting 3-2 win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights. Braden Holtby’s miraculous save to prevent overtime stole the show.
By Bill Sands
Already in a 1-0 hole, the Washington Capitals needed a heroic effort to beat the Vegas Golden Knights and even the Stanley Cup Final series. They got exactly that from several players, stars and role players alike, as the Caps built a 3-1 lead and held on by the slimmest of margins to win 3-2. The series is now tied 1-1 as both teams head to Washington for Game 3.
Kuznetsov Left Game 2 Injured, Didn’t Return
Like Game 1, things did not get off to a good start for the Caps. James Neal scored an early goal to give Vegas the lead, and Evgeny Kuznetsov left the game (in obvious agony, and clutching his left hand) after taking a hit from Brayden McNabb. He sped down the tunnel and didn’t return. Without their top scorer, and down a goal on the road, it would have been all too easy for the Caps to fold and fade away. But, that is not the style of this 2017-18 Capitals outfit.
Instead, they came roaring back. Matching minors left both sdies playing 4-on-4, and Michal Kempny caught a pass from Andre Burakovsky, froze Marc-Andre Fleury with a beautiful fake, and slid a gorgeous pass over to Lars Eller, who made no mistake and tied the game at 1 – making amends for a horrific whiff in front of an open goal in the latter stages of Game 1.
The Caps continued their strong play in the second period. With Alex Tuch in the box for the Golden Knights, the power play went to work. Eller, set up in Kuznetsov’s usual spot, slid a cross-crease pass to Alex Ovechkin, who sneaked in from the point and snapped a one-timer past Fleury.
The Caps got an insurance marker from the unlikeliest of sources late in the second. Eller (who had his best game as a Cap, if you haven’t already picked up on the theme of this article) gained the zone and delayed, eventually finding Brooks Orpik cruising in the slot. Orpik’s shot hit Tuch’s arm and pinballed past Fleury, off the post, and into the net to make it 3-1 – thus maintaining Orpik’s steady stream of a goal every few seasons.
Oshie Takes Uncharacteristic Costly Penalty
T.J. Oshie lost his cool and took an undisciplined penalty late in the second, and Vegas took advantage with a Shea Theodore goal before the intermission.
The Caps held on for dear life in the third, withstanding multiple chances. Jakub Vrana just missed on a 2-on-1 opportunity, and the Golden Knights responded with several minutes of sustained pressure, aided by a 5-on-3 power-play. Braden Holtby made several key saves during that two-man advantage and was careful not to leave any rebounds.
Holtby’s Save: Best Magic Act in Vegas
With two minutes left, Holtby made perhaps the best (and most important) save in franchise history. After a strange puck bounce on a dump-in, Cody Eakin found Tuch all alone with a wide open net. In desperation, Holtby lunged back with his stick and swiped the puck off the goal line to preserve the lead and give the Caps a win.
Here is Holtby’s save of the century:
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) May 31, 2018
Game 3 shifts back to Washington on Saturday, where the Caps will play in front of a raucous Capital One Arena.