The Washington Capitals keep winning, and now they are on the brink of securing their first Stanley Cup championship.
“You use that adrenaline,” Washington right winger Tom Wilson said. “Each win you get hungrier.”
The Capitals used a strong first period to set the tone on the way to a 6-2 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night at Capital One Arena in Washington.
After their third win in a row, the Capitals hold a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series. Game 5 is Thursday night in Las Vegas.
T.J. Oshie, Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly scored in a 10-minute span of the first period. John Carlson scored in the second, and Michael Kempny and Brett Connolly added goals in the third.
“They came in with a little bit of push, and I like the way we responded,” Carlson said.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington’s leader in postseason points this spring, registered four assists. Nicklas Backstrom added three assists.
Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby took a shutout into the third period for the third consecutive home game. He finished with 28 saves.
Holtby has limited Vegas to a total of five goals in the past three games.
“I think we just play smart, manage the puck well,” said Washington left winger Alex Ovechkin, who had one assist. “Obviously, the defense was awesome tonight.”
James Neal scored with 14:17 to play for Vegas’ first goal. That came just one second after a power play expired.
Reilly Smith posted the second Vegas goal with 7:34 remaining before Kempny gave the Capitals an insurance goal just 73 seconds later.
The game’s final minutes were chippy with several post-whistle scrums. Amid that, Connolly scored on a five-on-three power play with 1:09 left.
Oshie and two Vegas players, Deryk Engelland and Ryan Reaves, drew game misconducts in the final 2:16.
“That’s the way it gets,” Ovechkin said of the rough stuff.
Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 17 shots.
The Golden Knights lost three games in a row only three times during the regular season. Now, the expansion darlings are in danger of falling short of their ultimate goal unless they can put together three consecutive victories.
“We have to change it,” Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said. “It can change in a hurry if we play our game.”
The Golden Knights were 13-3 in the postseason until the current three-game skid.
“We’ve lost games before, we’ve lost games in the playoffs and we’ve bounced back,” Reaves said.
Washington has blown 3-1 playoffs series leads five times in its last 12 attempts, but there were few signs of such trouble in Game 4.
The Capitals went 3-for-5 on power plays after going 1-for-7 in the series entering the game.
“I thought we gave them some different looks,” Carlson said. “We changed some things up, worked a little bit harder. ... We have to commit to giving them a lot of different looks.”
Oshie opened the scoring when he skated in from the right side and was undetected by the Vegas defense, creating a rather significant gap to deliver the shot at 9:54 of the first period.
After Wilson scored at 16:26, Smith-Pelly’s goal came with just 20.5 seconds to play in the opening period. The Golden Knights failed to advance the puck out of the zone, and the Capitals seized the opportunity.
The Golden Knights held an 11-10 edge in shots after the first period, but they faced a three-goal deficit.
“It was frustrating because of the score,” Gallant said. “I thought we had some good chances. ... We played a lot of the game the way we wanted to play it.”
Gallant said he never considered pulling Fleury.
Again in the second period, the Golden Knights were credited with more shots. They had 10 of the first 14 shots, but Carlson had the lone goal during that stretch when he scored with 4:37 to play in the period.
Carlson’s power-play goal was set up by Kuznetsov’s pass.
The Golden Knights made their first lineup change of the Final by going with forward Tomas Tatar, who finished a plus-1.
Vegas’ road record in the playoffs fell to 6-4.
Teams holding a 3-1 record in the Stanley Cup Final have captured the championship 32 of 33 times. The only club to rally from such a deficit was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who completed a rally from a 3-0 hole against the Detroit Red Wings.
—Field Level Media