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Ovechkin, Kuznetsov among top Capitals performers in Game 3 of Cup Final

Honor roll, stock watch from win against Golden Knights

by Shawn P. Roarke @sroarke_nhl / Director of Editorial

Who played well in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final? Sometimes it's easy to tell, sometimes it isn't. graded the players in the 3-1 victory by the Washington Capitals against the Vegas Golden Knights at Capital One Arena on Saturday that gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series. Here are the players and trends that stood out the most.


[RELATED: Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]


Honor roll

Alex Ovechkin (Capitals) -- The captain was everywhere. He scored the game's first goal on a play that was all hustle at 1:10 of the second period, shoveling a loose puck into the net before Marc-Andre Fleury could recover. It was his 14th goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, tying him with John Druce for the Capitals record in a single postseason set in 1990. Ovechkin is also tied with Winnipeg Jets forward Mark Scheifele for the goal lead in the playoffs. He had eight shot attempts in the first period alone. He also had two hits and two blocked shots.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm3: Ovechkin opens scoring to tie record

Evgeny Kuznetsov (Capitals) -- The center, who returned to the lineup after leaving Game 2 on Wednesday with an upper-body injury, set up the goal by Ovechkin and scored the second goal. He won five of seven face-offs, had four shots on goal and six shot attempts. He extended his scoring lead in the postseason with 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 22 games, two points ahead of Ovechkin.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm3: Kuznetsov snipes wrister past Fleury

Marc-Andre Fleury (Golden Knights) -- Fleury allowed three goals but made huge saves against Ovechkin, Tom Wilson and John Carlson to keep the game within reach. He finished with 23 saves. 

John Carlson (Capitals) -- The defenseman played 22:23, had an assist on the game-opening goal, had six shots on goal and another seven attempts. He also blocked four shots.

Braden Holtby (Capitals) -- He gave up five goals in Game 1 and has allowed three since. He stopped 21 of 22 shots Saturday, including two big saves against first-line forward Jonathan Marchessault.


Stock watch

Devante Smith-Pelly (up) -- In limited ice time (10:20), the Capitals forward made a tremendous impact. He scored on his only shot but the scoring play was made by his effective clearance of his zone. He had three hits and a blocked shot.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm3: Smith-Pelly finishes Beagle's feed

Shea Theodore (down) -- The Golden Knights defenseman had a rough night, encapsulated by a play in the last minute of the second period that resulted in a penalty to Fleury. Nate Schmidt was chasing a cleared puck on the power play but was not at full speed when he was passed by Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen, who got the puck and got behind Theodore as he fell. Fleury came out to poke-check the puck away and tripped Niskanen in the process, negating a power play.

Jay Beagle (up) -- The Capitals forward's aggressive forecheck led to the goal by Smith-Pelly. He forced Theodore into a turnover then made a pass that hit Smith-Pelly in stride. He finished with two assists, three hits and two takeaways. 

Sting and Shaggy (up) -- The weather could not dampen the party outside before Game 3 and this Grammy Award-winning duo did not disappoint with their set on the steps of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm3: Sting and Shaggy take the stage

Golden Knights second line (down) -- Erik Haula, David Perron and James Neal were a combined minus-9, on as a line for each of the three goals against. They had no points, two shots on goal (both from Haula) and six other shot attempts.

Lynda Carter (up) -- The actor who famously played Wonder Woman on TV got the crowd even more fired up when she appeared on the scoreboard during a first-period stoppage. She raised the crest of her red Capitals shirt in tribute and mouthed words of encouragement to the crowd.

Pat Sajak (up) -- The "Wheel of Fortune" host reprised the role first adopted by boxing announcer Michael Buffer in Game 1, introducing the two teams. The crowd was so loud throughout the intros that Sajak could barely be heard at times.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm3: Sajak announces lineups for Game 3

Matt Niskanen -- (up) The Capitals defenseman was a workhorse, playing a game-best 27:16. He had four hits, two takeaways and three blocked shots, was plus-2 and drew a penalty on Fleury by hustling after a cleared puck.

Jonathan Marchessault (down) -- The Golden Knights forward has not scored a goal in his past five games. He also lost six of seven face-offs in Game 3.

T.J. Oshie (up) -- The Capitals forward went 5-for-5 on face-offs, helping the Capitals to a 63 percent night in the circle (39 of 62).


What we learned

Washington is about more than skill. Sure, their skill guys scored the first two goals of the game but the price was paid all over the ice for this victory. The Capitals blocked 26 shots; Vegas had nine blocks. The Capitals had a 38-31 advantage in hits, led by first-line forward Tom Wilson (five). They were hard on the forecheck and made life miserable around the Vegas crease, crashing hard for position and rebounds.


Smith-Pelly is a big-game player

Devante Smith-Pelly, a fourth-line forward, has five goals this postseason. He scored the insurance goal Saturday soon after Vegas had clawed its way back into the game. Among his other goals are a game-winner in the clinching game against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round, a goal in a Game 2 victory against Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final and a goal in Game 6 against the Lightning when the Capitals were facing elimination.


Vegas needs to get it shots through

The Golden Knights managed 62 shot attempts in Game 3; 22 were on net, a little more than one-third. Twenty-six were blocked and the other 16 missed the net. In Game 2, 30 shot attempts did not find the net, including 18 of which were blocked. Vegas' defense, usually a bedrock of its attack, had only seven shots on goal in Game 3.


Vegas must nip frustration in the bud

The Golden Knights were upset after Game 3. Yes, it is the first time they have lost two games in a row in the postseason. But Vegas is upset about the way it lost the games. Several players said after Game 3 that more effort was needed across the lineup. Sunday must be about clearing the heads and hitting the reset button.


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