David Becker/Associated Press
The Vegas Golden Knights have passed all the tests they have faced in their initial season, and they have exceeded all expectations.
The latest came Sunday afternoon when they recorded a 2-1 road victory over the Winnipeg Jets and eliminated their hosts from the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs. The Golden Knights won the Western Conference Final series in five games, losing the first game and winning the next four.
Vegas scored the opening goal on a turnaround shot by Alex Tuch, and Ryan Reaves scored the winning goal in the second period. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury was once again the architect of the victory, stopping 31 shots and frustrating the Jets throughout the game.
The Golden Knights also got a lift from their depth players, and that’s something they will depend on in the Stanley Cup Final.
“The whole mentality of this team is next man up,” Reaves said, per Scott Billeck of NHL.com. “We’ve got a deep team, we’ve got a lot of good players. You look at the season this team had even before I got here, everybody’s stepping up. The guys that weren’t playing, myself included, we stayed ready. We had fun while we were doing it, but we worked hard so when we were called upon we were ready to go.”
Vegas Golden Knights @GoldenKnights
Timing was right
for Ryan Reaves’ first goal
as a Golden Knight https://t.co/yMgGsXE3CF
The Golden Knights are plus-122 favorites to win the Stanley Cup, according to OddsShark.
The Golden Knights will play the winner of the Tampa Bay Lightning-Washington Capitals series, and the Lightning have the momentum and a 3-2 lead in the series.
Tampa Bay dropped the first two games of the series at home but then bounced back to win the last three games.
Their first two victories came on the Capitals’ home ice, and they followed up with a 3-2 victory at the Amalie Arena in Tampa on Saturday night. In addition to becoming the first team to win a home game in the series, the victory left the Lightning one game away from advancing to the Stanley Cup Final.
Tampa Bay jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period, and they scored at the 19-second mark on a goal by Cedric Paquette at the 19-second mark.
While the Capitals lost the game and find themselves on the brink of elimination, they were the better team in the second half.
Defenseman John Carlson thinks one of the keys for the Capitals is to get the puck to Alex Ovechkin.
“He likes to shoot the puck a lot,” Carlson said, per Corey Long of NHL.com. “The more he has it on his stick, in good shooting positions, the better off our team is. So, yeah, we got to work a little bit better for him.”
If the Caps can win on home ice on Monday night, they will force a seventh game in Tampa on Wednesday night.
The Capitals are minus-130 favorites to beat the Lightning in Game 6, according to OddsShark.
The Lightning are plus-205 to win the Stanley Cup, while the Caps are plus-435.
Eastern Conference Final, Tampa Bay leads series 3-2
Tampa Bay Lightning at Washington Capitals, May 21, 8 p.m., NBCSN
Washington Capitals at Tampa Bay Lightning, May 23, 8 p.m., NBCSN, if necessary
Washington Capitals @Capitals
Alex Ovechkin brings Washington within one. #ALLCAPS https://t.co/rw4WHbi9DG
The Capitals came back from an 0-2 deficit to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round, and then they slayed their personal demons by beating the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
The Caps jumped to a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference Final, but Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov now find themselves on the brink of elimination.
Washington has not played badly in the three games they have lost. They did not deserve to win Game 3, but they could have won Games 4 and 5.
Look for the Caps to survive the sixth game at home. They will find a way to win at home and force a seventh game.