June 3, 2018 / 3:34 AM / 5 months ago

Kuznetsov leads Capitals past Knights for 2-1 series edge

Evgeny Kuznetsov was healthy enough to provide a goal and an assist as the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night at Capital One Arena in Washington.

Jun 2, 2018; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov (92) controls the puck against Vegas Golden Knights left wing Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) in the second period in game three of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Amber Searls-USA TODAY Sports

The Capitals are in good shape, too, as their top players keep producing in the postseason.

Alex Ovechkin and Devante Smith-Pelly also scored for Washington.

The Capitals lead the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is Monday night in Washington.

Ovechkin continues to come through with solid production, and it’s no surprise that he’s maintaining a high level of play during this high-profile time of the season.

“You can tell by the expressions on his face all the time, his emotion,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said of his star winger.

Saturday night marked the first Stanley Cup Final game in Washington in two decades, with the Capitals winning on home ice for the first time at this stage of the season. They went 0-2 at home in the 1998 finals against the Detroit Red Wings.

While much is being made about the Capitals playing at home in pursuit of their first Stanley Cup championship, Trotz wants the team to keep to its principles.

“I don’t think we change at home,” he said. “I just think managing the puck is a key for us at home. When we do that, we do it well. We’re pretty effective.”

Washington goalie Braden Holtby made 21 saves. Holtby faced only 13 shots through two periods.

Tomas Nosek scored for Vegas, which has lost two games in a row.

Vegas, an expansion team bidding for history, has dropped consecutive playoff games for the first time.

The team’s bounce-back ability is one of its strengths, coach Gerard Gallant said.

“We’ve done that all year,” Gallant said.

Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots.

The Golden Knights played better defensively than earlier in the series, so that was a positive step. Gallant said tightening up the defense was one of the priorities.

“I think we know the way we want to play,” Fleury said. “We just have to execute it. I think this group has been through it together.”

Kuznetsov, the NHL playoff scoring leader, was on the ice after suffering an upper-body injury in Game 2, creating uncertainty about his availability. Kuznetsov has registered 27 points in the postseason, including an assist on Ovechkin’s goal.

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik also was in the lineup after he needed stitches to repair a finger injury sustained in Game 2. However, he wasn’t on the ice late in the game, receiving some treatment for an undisclosed ailment.

Neither team scored in the first period, with a total of 12 shots on goal.

While some of the scoring chances might have seemed tame compared to the two games in Las Vegas, there was no shortage of action.

The Capitals had an apparent first-period goal nullified because of goalie interference against Smith-Pelly.

Ovechkin’s goal came 70 seconds into the second period. It was his 14th goal of the postseason. Kuznetsov scored with 7:10 left in the second period to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead.

While one of Vegas’ goals was to cut down on the space the Capitals had to work with on the offensive end, that lasted only so long. Washington posted 14 second-period shots.

Nosek scored 3:29 into the third period. That ended Holtby’s home-ice streak of more than 103 minutes without yielding a goal.

Smith-Pelly’s goal eased some tension for the Capitals, coming with 6:07 to play. Jay Beagle picked up his second assist of the game on the scoring sequence.

The Capitals hadn’t played at home since May 21, when they won Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We can get some matchups that we actually prefer,” Trotz said. “We’re very comfortable with our record over the last four years at home.”

—Field Level Media

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