There was a monumental sporting event that took place Sunday — the Vegas Golden Knights traveled to D.C. to take on the Washington Capitals!
The Golden Knights were coming off arguably their worst performance of the season after being pummeled by the Minnesota Wild at the Xcel Energy Center Friday. And things wouldn’t get much easier for Vegas as the Capitals were also looking to rebound after a not-so-awesome performance against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The last time the Golden Knights took on the Capitals, Marc-Andre Fleury recorded his first shutout of the season as Vegas blanked Washington 3-0. There would be no shutout in this game, but the end result would remain the same. Vegas picked up their 35th win of the season in a back-and-forth affair in the nation’s capital.
While Vegas ended up getting the last laugh, it was the Capitals who got on the board first. Chandler Stephenson beat Fleury with a wrister from the near faceoff circle after having his way with Shea Theodore at the blueline. That would be Stephenson’s third goal in as many games.
Not long after Stephenson’s tally, it appeared Brayden McNabb had scored his third goal of the season. McNabb shot a hard wrister from the right faceoff circle and Philipp Grubauer stopped a chunk, but not all of it. With the puck trickling toward the net, Jay Beagle made a clutch defensive play to knock the puck out of the goal crease.
It wouldn’t take long before Vegas did get on the board, though. Ryan Carpenter scored his first goal as a Golden Knight off a terrific feed from Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (!) to tie the game up at one apiece.
The back-and-forth action continued in the second period. Like in the first 20 minutes, Washington was the first to get on the board in the middle third. Evgeny Kuznetsov sent a nice feed to Matt Niskanen, who’s quick release beat Fleury to give the Capitals the lead.
The Vegas power play was once again on point Sunday, though. Before long, the game was tied back up thanks to some slick puck movement from the first power play unit. Jonathan Marchessault found Alex Tuch behind the net, who sent a quick feed to Reilly Smith in the slot. Smith unleashed a flurry of shots on Grubauer and, eventually, one of his attempts finally got through.
Vegas had the momentum going into the third period. But once again, it was Washington to open the scoring in the period. Just 52 seconds into the final 20 minutes, Nicklas Backstrom scored to reclaim the one-goal lead. Not the start the Golden Knights were looking for in the final third.
As they’d done throughout the contest, the Golden Knights would answer right back. Towards the period’s midway point, Marchessault sent a nifty pass to Smith across the blueline, who beat Grubauer with a ridiculous shot from the far faceoff circle.
Minutes later, the Golden Knights scored yet again. Alex Tuch battled his way to the dirty area of the ice to score a beautiful sludgeball of a goal, giving Vegas the 4-3 lead. What a shift by Tuch.
With the clock ticking, Washington pulled Grubauer to get an extra attacker on the ice. The Capitals had set up a cycle in the offensive zone and the Golden Knights were scrambling to keep up.
That’s when Ryan Carpenter came to the rescue.
Aside from Beagle’s incredible goal-saving effort in the first period, Carpenter may have made the best defensive play of the game. Backstrom picked up a loose puck from behind the net and sent a quick dish to T.J. Oshie, who spun a pass in the direction of Brett Connolly (who had a wide open net in front of him). Carpenter was having none of it, though, as he intercepted the attempted feed and deflected the puck back behind the net. It may not be the kind of effort you’ll see on the highlights, but Carpenter may have saved the day for Vegas.
The Golden Knights held on in the dying seconds and secured the 4-3 victory over one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
What a response by the Golden Knights. Vegas looked absolutely debilitated against the Minnesota Wild Friday night, but they came to play against the Capitals. A hard-earned win in the nation’s capital is one heck of a way to get back in the winning column.
The Golden Knights will return to action against Tuesday against a hot Pittsburgh Penguins team, which will be Fleury’s first game in the arena he used to call his own. You won’t want to miss that one.