It took two goaltenders, multiple comebacks, a power-play strike and some vintage Shea Theodore overtime magic, but the Vegas Golden Knights came out on top in a must-win game, securing a 4-3 overtime victory against the Washington Capitals Wednesday night at T-Mobile Arena.
The Golden Knights trailed by one heading into the third period but scored two quick goals to take a 3-2 lead, and though the Capitals eventually netted the equalizer, Theodore called game 2:09 into extra time.
Alex Ovechkin was a beast for the Capitals, but the Golden Knights got timely contributions and were able to come away with the critical two points as they continue to push for a postseason berth.
It was a thrilling hockey game, one that will go down as a classic in Vegas lore.
Robin Lehner got the nod for Vegas despite his rough performance the other night against New Jersey, but he was replaced by Logan Thompson to start the second period. Pete DeBoer said after the game that he made the switch because the team was “rattled” after Washington took an early lead.
Lehner finished the first period with 12 saves on 13 shots, but the one that got past him was deflating after a strong start for Vegas.
An Ovechkin slapshot found its way through Lehner’s pads, and Evgeny Kuznetsov slammed it into the net to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead 6:18 into the first.
But Capitals netminder Ilya Samsonov returned the favor with a questionable goal at the other end.
Alec Martinez sent a harmless wrist shot from the point that bounced on its way under Samsonov’s pads and into the net.
Another day, another goal from a defenseman! Alec Martinez tying things up in Vegas!— AT&T SportsNet™ | RM West (@ATTSportsNetRMW) April 21, 2022
WSH 1 | VGK 1, 1st period pic.twitter.com/5enxwoqCkT
It appeared as though the Capitals answered quickly, but a successful Vegas challenge overturned the goal for offside, keeping it a 1-1 game through 20 minutes.
But perhaps the most interesting moment of the first period was when Ovechkin turned down a penalty that was called in his favor.
Thompson took over the crease to start the second period, and he fell victim to an Ovechkin one-timer less than three minutes in as the Capitals officially took a 2-1 lead on a 2-on-1.
Ovechkin scored his 49th of the season, becoming the oldest player to reach that milestone.
Though the Golden Knights generated more chances as the period went on, they were unable to break through and found themselves in desperate need of a goal heading into the final frame.
They got two.
In fact, Vegas scored two goals just 49 seconds apart to not only erase the one-goal deficit but take a 3-2 lead at 2:54 of the final frame.
First, Evgenii Dadonov netted his 20th of the season as Samsonov surrendered another soft goal. It was a simple shot that somehow got past the young netminder, but it was another fortunate bounce the Golden Knights were happy to accept.
Dad had to make sure everyone was having fun pic.twitter.com/EYa05I782I— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 21, 2022
Less than a minute later, the Golden Knights took the lead for the first time in the game when Chandler Stephenson — former Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson, that is — deflected a shot in the slot for a rare Vegas power-play goal.
and The Fortress went CRAAAAAZY pic.twitter.com/H8Nugf6QRj— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 21, 2022
The Golden Knights’ power play has let them down many times this season, but it came through with the season on the line.
But there’s a reason Ovechkin is widely considered the greatest goal-scorer of all time, and he demonstrated it when he beat Thompson cleanly to even things up at 3-3 with 6:24 remaining in the third.
Alex Ovechkin with the huge wind-up to secure his ninth 50-goal season. pic.twitter.com/6OSIHVQdXS— NHL (@NHL) April 21, 2022
The blast clocked in at 101 mph and capped off a game-high three-point night for the Capitals captain, who reached the 50-goal mark for the ninth time in his career.
But it was Theodore who had the last word, and he made quite a statement.
It was a relatively conservative start to overtime, but Theodore took matters into his own hands when he deked around T.J. Oshie, carried the puck towards the net and casually lifted a backhand shot over Samsonov for the game-winner.
Confirmed: Shea Theodore loooooooves overtime pic.twitter.com/u5ygd8VVD0— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) April 21, 2022
It was Theodore’s 14th of the season; Dadonov and William Karlsson picked up the assists.
Theodore has been a clutch overtime performer for Vegas going back to the inaugural campaign, but this was one of the prettiest goals in franchise history.
More importantly, it helped the Knights pick up the all-important second point to keep their postseason chances alive.
Thompson finished the game with 13 saves on 15 shots for an .867 save percentage, but the Ovechkin goals were anything but soft, and he made several key stops down the stretch.
The Golden Knights benefited from Samsonov’s porous play, but they did what they had to do to get the win, which is all that matters at this point in the season.
With a little help from the Oilers, who defeated Dallas earlier Wednesday evening, Vegas now sits two points behind the Stars, who have one game in hand, as well as three points behind Los Angeles.
The Golden Knights won’t play again until they take on the San Jose Sharks on Sunday, so their fate will be out of their hands until then.