Story highlights: In a wild, up-and-down Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Washington Capitals fell 6-4 to the Vegas Golden Knights out West. However, a head-scratching missed call from an official benefited the home team.
By Bill Sands
Heading into the Stanley Cup Final, most analysts (including yours truly!) were calling for a tight-checking and low-scoring series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. Game 1, however, completely flipped the script, as the teams combined for 10 goals as Vegas won 6-4 on the strength of two third period goals from Tomas Nosek. However, there was one questionable missed call late on that left the Washington bench fuming.
Connolly Nabs Caps’ First Goal
Things got off to a good start for the home team, as Colin Miller scored an early power-play goal to give the Knights a 1-0 lead. Undaunted, the Caps shook off a sluggish start to bounce back emphatically. Brett Connolly tipped a point shot from Michal Kempny past Marc-Andre Fleury, off the post, and into the net to tie the game.
Backstrom’s Sublime Tally
Less than a minute later, Nicklas Backstrom got open in the slot and managed to corral a nice pass from T.J. Oshie, and then lift a sublime backhander over Fleury’s pad to give the Caps their first lead of the game. The two goals also marked the first time Vegas had allowed a goal in the first period at home during the 2018 playoffs.
VIDEO Backstrom’s Goal:
Vegas’ lethal top line came back with a nice shift and generated multiple scoring chances, which culminated in William Karlsson picking up a loose puck and lifting it over Braden Holtby’s shoulder to tie the game.
Oshie Was Excellent
Vegas regained the lead early in the second when the top line struck again. After some sloppy play in their own end, the Caps left Reilly Smith all alone in the slot, and the talented winger made no mistake in roofing a shot over a helpless Holtby. Oshie – easily Washington’s best player on the night – made another great play to find John Carlson all alone in the slot, and Carlson flipped another backhander past a badly out of position Fleury to make the score 3-3.
The third period got off to a good start, as Washington’s top line scored off yet another deflection. Alex Ovechkin, who had a quiet game overall, got loose in the slot and ripped a shot hard and low. Tom Wilson was already set up in front, he got a stick on the puck and Fleury’s skate then helped it over the goal line to give Washington another lead.
Unfortunately for the Capitals, Ryan Reaves tied the game (after getting away with a cross-check on Carlson), and Nosek scored the game-winner just a few minutes later off a nice feed from Shea Theodore. Nosek added an empty-net goal to clinch the game.
‘Unforgivable’ Missed Call: Reaves’ Cross-Check
About that cross check on Carlson – it was clearly a penalty in full view of an official who was eight feet away and looking in Reaves’ direction. The Capitals should have maintained their 4-3 lead and entered into a power play. Instead, Vegas tied the game at 4-4 and that was a huge momentum changer. It wasn’t the only missed penalty call on the night, but the most obvious – which set of a slurry of criticism from TV analysts, most notably NBC’s Mike Milbury who called the missed Reaves call “unforgivable.”
🎙 “You have to make the call. It’s the turning point of the game.” pic.twitter.com/qVawAcBn5X
— NBC Sports Capitals (@NBCSCapitals) May 29, 2018
Plenty For Caps To Be Optimistic About
Game 2 is Wednesday night in Vegas, and the Caps have a lot to be encouraged about. Fleury looked shaky, all four lines were generating chances, and a similar effort will probably even the series.