Las Vegas Sun

October 17, 2018

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Blog: Capitals continue stretch of dominance over Golden Knights

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Nick Wass / AP

Golden Knights left wing Max Pacioretty (67) chases the puck against Washington Capitals right wing Brett Connolly (10) during the first period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington.

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 | 7:51 p.m.

Make it five straight defeats for the Vegas Golden Knights against the Washington Capitals.

The latest, a 5-2 loss on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena, wasn’t as devastating as the four suffered in June as part of the Stanley Cup Final. But it’s still damaging for a team that’s struggling early in the season.

Vegas fell to 1-3-0 on the season, despite arguably playing its best game so far. The Golden Knights just couldn’t get enough pucks past Washington goalie Braeden Holtby, who picked up where he left off in the Stanley Cup with 29 saves.

And the ones that did go by Holtby didn’t always find the net, as Vegas had four shots clank off the post.

Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury managed 24 saves, but didn’t stand much of a chance against a couple of well-executed goals by Washington.

Much like in their Stanley Cup run, the Capitals were lethal on the power play. They scored on two of their four power plays.

Both were cross-ice passes to open men in front of Fleury.

In the first period, Nicklas Backstrom found Evgeny Kuznetsov for a power-play goal. The third period was practically a replay, only with the roles reversed.

Washington got two goals came from Alex Ovechkin, who sent a pair of one-timers from Kuznetsov home after odd man rushes. The Capitals' final score was on an empty-netter by T.J. Oshie.

Vegas had its moments. Cody Eakin came off injured reserve for the game to score in one of his first shifts.

He wrapped around the net and beat Holtby to make the score 2-1 in the second period, 31 seconds after Washington’s first power-play goal. Vegas routinely played well and answered, but Washington never trailed.

The Golden Knights’ second goal came two minutes after Kuznetsov’s power-play score when Reilly Smith banged one in right in front of Holtby off a pass from William Karlsson.

Vegas won’t have any time to linger on the loss to Washington. The Golden Knights travel to Pittsburgh for a 4 p.m. game Thursday.

Come back to lasvegasssun.com later for full coverage.

Capitals lead Golden Knights 2-1 at end of the second period

The Vegas Golden Knights played much better in the second period of their Stanley Cup Final rematch versus the Washington Capitals. They still find themselves in the same position.

Vegas is down a goal headed into the second intermission, trailing Washington 2-1. Vegas got on the board when Cody Eakin, who returned from injury for his first game of the year, wrapped around the net to sneak a puck past Braden Holby.

It came at 10:49 of the period, only 31 seconds after Washington scored its lone goal when Alexander Ovechkin ripped a one-timer past Marc-Andre Fleury off of a pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Fleury has 15 saves, while Holtby has managed 19 of his own.

Capitals lead Golden Knights 1-0 at the end of the first period

Give a team stacked with offensive talent like the Capitals enough chances and they’re bound to convert on one of them.

That’s what happened to the Golden Knights in the first period of their Stanley Cup rematch at Capital One Arena. Marc-Andre Fleury looked spry in turning away the first eight shots he faced.

The ninth, with 34 seconds remaining in the period, got past him. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the goal off of a pass from Nicklas Backstrom on a power-play.

Backstrom feigned a pass to superstar Alexander Ovechkin to create a slight gap in the Golden Knights’ defense that he then exploited.

Fleury had two stops on the Capitals’ first power play, but allowed Kuznetsov’s goal on the second. Vegas has now allowed three goals in 10 penalty kills on the season.

Pre-game

The Golden Knights will talk about it if they must; they just don’t want to.

Last year’s Stanley Cup Final loss to the Washington Capitals is a topic best not broached with the players, at least not without the expectation of some resistance. There are a couple reasons for their reticence to reflect.

For one, the Golden Knights want to move on and concentrate on this season. But the classic reason arguably remains the most important: It still hurts.

Vegas will be forced to confront those emotions at 5 p.m. today when the puck drops at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. The Golden Knights will be playing under the Stanley Cup championship banner the Capitals earned against them, and they surely haven’t forgotten even the most minute details of how it slipped away.

Vegas won the first game of the series before enduring a slide that saw it lose the next four straight to Washington. It’s a funk that appears to have followed the Golden Knights into a new season, as they’ve lost two of their opening three games.

The Capitals also appear to be on the same trajectory as last year with an impressive 13 goals through two games. Much like the Golden Knights, the Capitals’ roster remains remarkably similar.

Goalie Braden Holtby, who made what’s now referred to as “the save” here against an Alex Tuch shot in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, will be in net. Holtby has struggled in the first two games, but he’s been picked up by the Capitals’ offense.

All of the Capitals’ star skaters — Alexander Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom, John Carlson and Evgeny Kuznetsov — already have multiple points. The Golden Knights need a breakout from their own leaders.

Although a patchy defense has been the primary culprit of the Golden Knights’ rough start, the offense also hasn’t finished on many opportunities. Last year’s leading goal-scorer, William Karlsson, has yet to score, while linemate Reilly Smith doesn’t have a single point.

Vegas will also have to make due without second-line center Paul Stastny, who’s day-to-day after being injured late in a 4-2 loss to the Sabres. Tomas Nosek is expected to bump up to the second line to play with Max Pacioretty and Erik Haula, while Cody Eakin comes off of injured reserve to join the third line.

Perhaps those changes could act as the “spark” coach Gerard Gallant has spoke of igniting.

Keefer’s Prediction: Capitals 4, Golden Knights 3

Season record for predictions: 0-1

Pick to score the Golden Knights’ first goal: William Karlsson

TV: NBC Sports Network (DirecTV 220, Cox 38, CenturyLink 640)

Radio: Fox Sports 1340 AM and 98.9 FM

Betting line: Golden Knights plus-135, Capitals minus-145; over/under: 6 (minus-125, plus-115)

Golden Knights (1-2-0) (1-1-0 road)

Coach: Gerard Gallant (second season)

Goals leader: Jonathan Marchessault (2)

Assists leader: Jonathan Marchessault, William Karlsson (2)

Expected goalie: Marc Andre-Fleury (3.93 gaa, .841 save percentage last season)

Washington Capitals (1-0-1) (1-0-0 home)

Coach: Todd Reirdon (first season)

Goals leader: T.J. Oshie (3)

Assists leader: Nicklas Backstrom (4)

Expected goalie: Braden Holtby (3.46 gaa, .894)

Golden Knights expected game day roster

Forwards (12): Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, William Carrier, Ryan Carpenter, Cody Eakin, Erik Haula, William Karlsson, Oscar Lindberg, Jonathan Marchessault, Tomas Nosek, Max Pacioretty, Ryan Reaves Reilly Smith

Defensemen (6): Deryk Engelland, Nick Holden, Brayden McNabb, John Merrill, Colin Miller, Shea Theodore

Goalies (2): Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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