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What to watch for as the Golden Knights face the Capitals

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Hoping to put Friday’s dud behind it, Vegas heads to D.C. for a matchup against the high-powered Caps.

Vegas Golden Knights v Winnipeg Jets

Happy Super Bowl Sunday, all. Our present is a hockey game at 9:30 a.m.

Those are the early day plans for the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday, as they head to the nation’s capital for a matchup against the Washington Capitals on this day that is supposed to be filled with football and endless nachos.

It feels like eons ago since the time Vegas welcomed Washington to T-Mobile Arena, marking the only time these two hockey powerhouses faced off. It was more than a month ago — Dec. 23, in fact. The Golden Knights shut out the Capitals 3-0 and everyone in attendance left with free donuts. Vegas has gone 10-4-2 since that win and are 7-3-1 on the road. One of those losses was Friday in that 5-2 dud at Minnesota.

Life hasn’t been grand for Washington either in the past few weeks. The Capitals have lost four of their past six games, including a 7-4 dud of their own in Pittsburgh on Friday. Washington, though, is really good at home. The 19 wins at Capital One Arena are tied with Vegas and the Penguins for most in the NHL and Washington has won 11 of its last 14 at home.

Safe to say this is going to be another tough test for the Golden Knights in the fourth game of their six-game road trip. Here’s what to watch for.

A battle of goal-scoring dieties

We’ll be treated to a game featuring two of the top goal scorers in the League on Sunday. It’s even more of a reason to get your popcorn ready. Alex Ovechkin is tops in the NHL with 32 goals, three more than Evgeni Malkin with one more game played. Five below Ovechkin is William Karlsson. Have I mentioned before that he should’ve been an All-Star?

Karlsson scored the last time Vegas faced Washington. Ovechkin had only three shots in 20:23, one of his quieter games of the season. It’s not a lock the game will come down to which top line will make the necessary plays, but it might be imperative for one of these goal-scoring savants to make a play. After how Vegas and Washington played Friday, it might be required.

Karlsson hasn’t scored a goal since Jan. 23. His longest goalless streak is five games (twice). Ovechkin has scored in three of his past four games. Something’s got to give, right?

Score first, you win

The NHL has this weird contrast of all momentum swinging, and staying, one way when a team scores first. That’s been true for the Golden Knights, holding a 22-1-0 record when they score the first goal of a hockey game this season. The Capitals, meanwhile, are a really good 17-2-2 when they score first.

Playing from behind, though? That’s another story. Vegas is 12-12-4 when the opponent scores first. Washington, you ask? 13-14-3. The odds are certainly not in the favor of the team that allows the ever-so-important first goal.

The Golden Knights fell into the deep abyss in the first period Friday against Minnesota and could probably avoid such nonsense again. While any sort of multi-goal comeback shouldn’t be ruled out for the Golden Knights if they fall behind, it’s the Capitals and they score goals really well.

Super Sunday Schmidt Shenanigans

Nate Schmidt makes his return to Washington for the first time since the Golden Knights selected him in the expansion draft. It just happens to be the 10th straight Super Bowl Sunday the Capitals are partaking in. The Capitals are 17-8-2 all time on the day of the Big Game. Washington is also 2-1-1 in Sunday games this season.

In short, I hope you’re all awake for this game and awake enough to devour all sorts of food at your Super Bowl party. Please feel free to tweet us pictures of what you’re having today.

How to watch

Time: 9:30 a.m. PT

TV: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain

Radio: Fox Sports 98.9 FM/1340 AM