Capitals 4, Golden Knights 3: 4 things we learned from a hard-fought, season-ending defeat

This stings. But what a ride.

The magic carpet ride is over. After an exhilarating eight months, the Golden Knights’ season has officially come to an end. The Washington Capitals defeated the Knights for the fourth straight game Thursday night to win their first-ever Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

Let’s jump right in and go over a few observations.

1. Sbisa has disastrous night

You can never pin a team’s loss on one player, but Luca Sbisa’s performance in Game 5 certainly didn’t do the Golden Knights any favors. The 28-year-old defenseman finished the night with a foul 27.78 Corsi For percentage at 5v5 and directly aided in the Capitals’ game-tying and game-winning goals.

Midway through the third period, Devante Smith-Pelly scored his seventh goal of the postseason to tie the game at three goals apiece. Smith-Pelly beat Fleury with an incredible diving effort in front of the net, where both Sbisa and Colin Miller were caught out of position.

Sbisa’s worst play of the game, and maybe even the season, came just a couple minutes later. With a loose puck slowly gliding to the end boards, Sbisa attempted to bank it to William Carrier, who was stationed at the point. However, rather than banking the puck out of harm’s way, Sbisa virtually passed the puck directly to Andre Burakovsky, resulting in a Lars Eller goal just seconds later.

Sbisa’s play in Game 5, specifically in the third period, was just bad. There’s no other way to slice it. The Italian-born defenseman has played some decent hockey for Vegas in the past, but his performance Thursday night was simply unacceptable.

2. Washington’s third line dominates

The Capitals’ third line of Andre Burakovsky, Lars Eller and Brett Connolly had its way with the Golden Knights Thursday night. The trio averaged a ridiculous 80.55 Corsi For percentage at 5v5 and produced the aforementioned game-winning goal in the third period.

While the Caps’ third line only generated one goal, the trio came very close to scoring on several other occasions. One of those opportunities came midway through the second period, forcing Marc-Andre Fleury into a snow angel.

The third line was fantastic all series for the Capitals, producing 11 points in just five games. Washington needed its bottom-six forwards to step up this series, and they did just that. And more.

3. Tuch has an inspiring performance

One of the Golden Knights’ best players in Game 5 was Alex Tuch, who consistently nagged at the Capitals and made numerous plays in the offensive zone. His most impressive play of the game led to Reilly Smith’s second period power-play goal with just 28.2 seconds remaining before the intermission.

It all started with a point shot from Shea Theodore that Braden Holtby failed to corral. Tuch, who’s been a menacing net-front presence for the Golden Knights all season, was waiting for the rebound in the low slot. After gathering the loose puck, Tuch spun a perfect dish to an uncovered Smith on the left wing, who had a wide open net to shoot at. Unlike James Neal (too soon?), Smith made no mistake hitting the back of the net. Terrific overall effort from Tuch and Smith here.

Tuch still isn’t a finished product. At just 22 years old, the Syracuse native still has plenty of growing to do. But based on what we’ve seen from him thus far, there’s no reason not to be absolutely thrilled about what’s to come.

4. Thank you for following along all season

It may not have ended the we wanted it to, but it’s been one heck of a ride. No one expected the Knights to do what they did in their inaugural season, and the fact that they made it as far as they did is simply remarkable. This team will go down in hockey history as the greatest expansion team of all time, and that’s not something to take for granted.

This goes without saying, but thank you all so much for your support throughout the season. Knights on Ice launched almost one year ago to the day, and seeing how far we’ve come since then is absolutely incredible. You’ve helped everyone here at KOI grow immensely, and we cannot thank you enough for it. We still have a lot more growing to do, but keep your eyes peeled for bigger and better things in the coming months. This is just the beginning.