The Golden Knights’ first game in the nation’s capital did not go according to plan.
After an unspectacular showing in Game 2, the Knights responded by putting on an even worse performance in Game 3, losing 3-1 in front of a raucous crowd in Capital One Arena. With this loss, the Golden Knights have lost two straight games for the first time all postseason.
If you dare to revisit this 60-minute nightmare, let’s jump right in and go over some observations.
1. Blocked shots galore
The Golden Knights managed only one goal in Game 3, and a lot of that had to do with Braden Holtby being, well, Braden Holtby. But the Capitals also did an impeccable job of blocking Vegas’ shots. The Knights landed just 22 shots on net Saturday night, and that number would be a lot higher had it not been for the 26 shots Washington blocked.
Washington did a fantastic job getting in the shooting lanes Saturday night. And in the rare instances that Washington didn’t impede the shooter’s lane, Vegas was typically forced to shoot from the low-danger areas.
Four different Capitals players finished the contest with at least three blocked shots. Of those players, John Carlson led the way with four.
2. Second line continues to struggle
None of the Golden Knights’ middle-six forwards have been up to snuff this series. However, the second line has been particularly poor, and that trend continued in Game 3.
Vegas’ second line of David Perron, Erik Haula and James Neal has combined for just one goal through three Stanley Cup Final contests, which came from Neal in Game 2. The trio sports an abysmal 42.54 Corsi For percentage at 5v5 and has combined for a shockingly meager 10 shots on goal all series.
To put that into perspective, John Carlson registered six shots on goal in Game 3 alone.
Saturday night may have been the second line’s worst performance of the series. Perron, Haula and Neal averaged a putrid 38.41 Corsi For percentage at 5v5 and were on the ice for all three of Washington’s goals, including Alex Ovechkin’s first period goal where Marc-Andre Fleury was totally left out to dry.
The second line has been nothing short of a major disappointment thus far, and with the third line getting more ice time in Game 3, maybe the trio is getting the wake-up call it needs from Gerard Gallant.
3. Theodore has a disastrous night
The second line had a bad night, but no one had a worse performance in Game 3 than Shea Theodore.
From a play driving standpoint, Theodore actually held up pretty well (he finished the night with a 51.61 5v5 Corsi For percentage). However, he was directly responsible for two goals against in Game 3 that ended up being total momentum-killers for Vegas.
A few minutes after the game’s midway point, Theodore was caught out of position at the point, which resulted in Evgeny Kuznetsov giving Washington a two-goal lead on a 3-on-1 rush. Later on in the third period, not long after Vegas finally got on the board, Theodore whiffed on a clearing attempt that directly led to Devante Smith-Pelly’s game-sealing goal with a little over six minutes remaining in the game.
Oh, and let’s also not forget about the penalty Fleury took (thanks to Theodore’s lack of awareness) that negated the remaining minute of a Vegas power play in the middle period.
It’s a night to forget for the 22-year-old defenseman. Theodore has been mostly fantastic for the Knights all season, so a performance as poor as this one is a bit of a surprise. However, it doesn’t appear his defensive partner Deryk Engelland is too concerned about him rebounding in Game 4.
“It’s not a big deal. It’s one game and we need him at his best tomorrow. Next game,” said Engelland after the game.
4. Fourth line shines again
Luckily, not everything was bad for Knights in Game 3. As has been the case for the entire series, the Knights’ fourth line of Tomas Nosek, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan Reaves once again proved to be one of Vegas’ most effective lines.
Nosek has been particularly sound for Vegas as of late. The 25-year-old found twine for the third time in as many games Saturday night and currently leads the Knights in goals this series. Of course, Nosek’s goal wouldn’t have been possible without the work of Bellemare, who aggressively pressured Holtby while the Caps netminder attempted to play the puck from behind his own net.
Don’t look now, but the fourth line leads all of Vegas’ lines in scoring this series with four goals. These guys are playin out of their minds.
5. Lineup changes on the way?
After Vegas’ worst game of the series, and possibly even the playoffs, it wouldn’t be surprising if Gerard Gallant makes a couple lineup changes for Game 4.
Tomas Tatar, though he has underwhelmed since being acquired at the trade deadline, has been a healthy scratch for most of the postseason and could significantly boost Vegas’ middle-six scoring issues. Also spending a large portion of the playoffs in the press box has been Oscar Lindberg. Granted, Lindberg failed to make much of an impact in the three games he’s appeared in this postseason, but the 26-year-old is a proven goal-scorer capable of adding a spark.