Published Thursday, June 7, 2018 | 3 p.m.
Updated Thursday, June 7, 2018 | 8:06 p.m.
The Stanley Cup was hoisted into the air and paraded around the rink Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena, but it wasn’t how Golden Knights’ fans imagined it before the series started.
The Washington Capitals came from behind to beat the Golden Knights 4-3, and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Lars Eller found the puck as it trickled through the pads of Marc-Andre Fleury, and buried it with just over seven minutes to play on what would eventually be the Cup-clinching goal.
Earlier in the period Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly gathered a bouncing puck with his skate, kicked it to the blade of his stick, then fired it past Marc-Andre Fleury as he fell to the ice.
The spectacular individual effort tied the game 3-3 with just over 10 minutes to play in the game.
Golden Knights lead 3-2 after two periods
Alex Tuch collected a rebound in front of Capitals goalie Braden Holtby, and Holtby lunged over to stop a second chance. Instead, Tuch curled the puck back across the crease to a streaking Reilly Smith, who put it into the wide open net to give Vegas a 3-2 lead after two periods of play.
It was a wild second period Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena with five total goals.
The Capitals struck first Thursday night at T-Mobile Arena when the Golden Knights lost track of winger Jakub Vrana. Vrana streaked down the ice all alone, received a pass and flipped the puck past Marc-Andre Fleury to give Washington a 1-0 lead.
Vegas tied the game 1-1 with a fortunate bounce off the skate of Capitals’ defenseman Matt Niskanen that ricocheted past Holtby and into the Capitals net to tie the game 1-1.
Seconds later Brayden McNabb was called for a penalty to give the Capitals their third power play opportunity of the night, and they cashed in quickly. Alex Ovechkin one-timed a perfect cross-ice pass into the net before Marc-Andre Fleury could dive across his crease.
The power play goal put Washington up 2-1 midway through the second period.
Vegas would again tie the game with another whacky play when David Perron scored to snap his 18-game scoreless drought while sitting inside the Capitals’ goal.
Colin Miller fired a pass into the slot that Tomas Tatar redirected past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. Perron, who was battling with Christian Djoos in the crease, was taken down and touched the puck prior to it crossing the goalline.
The play was reviewed for goalie interference, but eventually stood and tied the game 2-2 late in the second period.
Vegas then took its first lead of the game with the power play goal by Smith with only 29 seconds left in the period.
Golden Knights, Capitals scoreless after one period
The Golden Knights and Capitals are still scoreless after a hard-fought 20 minutes of hockey at T-Mobile Arena.
The offensive chances were held to a minimum on both sides in the first period of Game 5, with the best opportunities coming for Washington on the lone power play of the opening frame.
Colin Miller was called for interference 11:44 into the game on a big hit near the half boards, giving the Capitals’ potent power play unit its first chance. Alex Ovechkin ripped a one-timed slap shot over Fleury’s shoulder but it rang off the crossbar.
Moments later John Carlson blasted another slap shot, but Fleury shuffled and kicked it aside with his left leg pad to keep the game scoreless.
Washington outshot Vegas 10-7 in the first period.
Entering an elimination game for the first time in team history, the Golden Knights are drawing strength from their leader — Marc-Andre Fleury.
The veteran netminder has led them on the ice, with four shutouts this postseason, and off the ice with his Stanley Cup-winning experience.
“He's pulled a few guys aside and talked to them,” defenseman Luca Sbisa said. “Just the way he handles himself in the locker room, on the ice. He's pretty calm. The guys read off that."
Fleury hasn’t played his best this series, allowing 4.00 goals per game after only 1.68 in the first three series, but his words still carry a lot of weight.
“He’s been telling us it’s not over, we’re fine,” defenseman Brayden McNabb said. “We’ve overcome a lot of adversity, and this is just another task. We are confident in here.”
It seems the pressure never gets to Fleury, who is constantly smiling and joking during practice and even during games. His demeanor spread to the rest of the Golden Knights’ roster.
“He stays confident and makes sure we stay confident, too,” McNabb said. “He’s a calming presence on the ice. All the pressure is off us. We just have to go out and win a game and have fun doing it.”
But through four games of the Stanley Cup Final, the defensemen have let Fleury down. They have lost track of the man they’re guarding in the defensive zone far too often, leaving wide-open shots for the Capitals.
“You have to keep your head on a swivel,” McNabb said. “You usually have to look for the guy without the puck. If we can just get them to shoot, then we are pretty confident in (Fleury) to make that save.”
The Golden Knights are confident in Fleury, but they have to show it on the ice. Allow him to take on the shooter and believe that he’ll make the stop, while the defensemen focus on preventing the pass that creates an unstoppable shot. The type of shot that the Capitals have created on nearly every goal in this series.
If they can do that, they have a chance at extending this series at least one more game.
“(Fleury) has given us that calm feeling all year,” forward James Neal said. “He’s been great for us, so he’s probably going to have his best game tonight. We wouldn’t be here without him.”
Prediction: Capitals 4, Golden Knights 3
Playoffs record for predictions: 11-8
Season record for predictions: 38-26
Puck drops: 5 p.m.
Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM
TV: NBC (DirecTV 3, Cox 1003, Dish Network 3)
Betting line: Golden Knights minus-155, Total 5.5 minus-115 to the over
Golden Knights playoff record (13-6) (7-2 home)
Coach: Gerard Gallant
Playoffs goal leader: Jonathan Marchessault (8)
Playoffs assist leader: Reilly Smith (16)
Expected goalie: Marc-Andre Fleury (13-6, 2.15 goals against average)
Washington Capitals playoff record (15-8) (9-3 away)
Coach: Barry Trotz
Playoffs goal leader: Alex Ovechkin (14)
Playoffs assist leader: Evgeny Kuznetsov (19)
Expected goalie: Braden Holtby (15-7, 2.13 goals against average)
Golden Knights expected game day roster
Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Carrier, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, James Neal, Tomas Nosek, David Perron, Reilly Smith, Tomas Tatar and Alex Tuch.
Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Brayden McNabb, Colin Miller, Luca Sbisa, Nate Schmidt and Shea Theodore.
Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Maxime Lagace