The Capitals and Golden Knights duked it out in the first period, which was a very tight competition, despite a tense Washington power play. The Golden Knights did not seem in control at all during the first, but they made up for it in the second.
They weren’t the first on the board, however. That honor went to Jakub Vrana.
Vrana beats Fleury top shelf. Caps take the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/zDsnB8Zg1e— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) June 8, 2018
Deryk Engelland went for the shot, and Brayden McNabb was on the other side of the ice. Vrana was able to cut a clear path through the middle, and went high glove on Marc-Andre Fleury. The all-important first goal wasn’t Vegas’.
Nate Schmidt responded quickly, however.
GOAL. Nate Schmidt ties the game against his former team! pic.twitter.com/TAQyl3707J— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) June 8, 2018
Schmidt’s goal initially appeared to be a tip by Jon Marchessault, but replay showed that his shot ricocheted off of Matt Niskanen’s skate. For the first time in a while, a lucky bounce went Vegas’ way. Then Alex Ovechkin did this almost immediately afterwards on the power play.
Aaaaand the Caps take the lead again. Ovechkin from his office on the power play. pic.twitter.com/ZYD7SQdMfA— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) June 8, 2018
Less than 40 seconds later and it’s 2-1. Is this how the Winnipeg Jets felt?
Luckily, two minutes later, Tomas Tatar found an opportunity with David Perron jostling for position with Christian Djoos behind Braden Holtby.
GOAL. Tomas Tatar ties the game with a sick deflection! Goal challenged for goalie interference, but it stands. pic.twitter.com/sU06QHmubn— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) June 8, 2018
Being opportunistic can pay off. Tatar proved his worth, and while the trade would look a lot better if he’s this good for the rest of his contract, he showed for an instant what George McPhee perhaps saw in him.
Then Vegas got their own lead on the power play.
GOAL. Knights take the lead! What a pass by Alex Tuch to Reilly Smith. pic.twitter.com/l0Xd8mzmV2— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) June 8, 2018
That is a stunning pass from Alex Tuch, and his potential is showing itself again. Reilly Smith is able to make the correct play, and this time, the puck actually goes into the empty net. Wild.
Then this happened.
Devante Smith-Pelly ties it. He's having a whale of a series. pic.twitter.com/3eSFWJkQaV— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) June 8, 2018
This was a bad defensive play. Nobody on the Golden Knights is able to claim the puck in their own zone, and Devante Smith-Pelly is able to score while diving. Luca Sbisa and Colin Miller actually collide on this play, away from the puck.
Then Lars Eller scores off a Sbisa turnover, and the Capitals have the game-winning goal.
Caps score off an unacceptable giveaway from Luca Sbisa. Totally inexcusable. Knights trail 4-3. pic.twitter.com/wGv29xLzfl— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) June 8, 2018
Sbisa lets Eller get interior position, he lets Eller near Fleury, he turned the puck over. A bad play all around. If Jon Merrill was fuming in this moment, that was fair, and just.
The Golden Knights lost because of the things that got them here in the first place: depth.
Alex Ovechkin was handed the Conn Smythe Trophy. He deserved his first Cup, even if it meant the Golden Knights losing it.
As a dedicated fan of Shea Theodore, this writer would like to point out that he and Nate Schmidt were never on ice for a goal together. No matter what happens this offseason, that pairing should be explored further next season.
In the end, the Golden Knights just couldn’t find enough offense in this series to make it competitive after the first game, and the defense came up empty. Too many slot shots allowed the Capitals to win this series, and when this is the heat map for the series, well, something went wrong.
This is going to be a long, hard offseason. The Golden Knights next play... oh. Right.