Who played well in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final? Sometimes it's easy to tell, sometimes it isn't. NHL.com graded the players in the 6-2 victory by the Washington Capitals against the Vegas Golden Knights at Capital One Arena on Monday that gave Washington a 3-1 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]
Evgeny Kuznetsov (Capitals) -- The forward was a beast again in Game 4 with four assists, including one on each of Washington's three goals on the power play. He has 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists) in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the most in one postseason since Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby (15 goals, 16 assists) had 31 in 2009. He has 50 points in his past 34 games, dating back to the regular season.
Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Capitals strike for three goals in 1st
Devante Smith-Pelly (Capitals) -- The fourth-line forward has goals in back-to-back games after scoring in the first period of Game 4. His goal, with 21 seconds remaining in the period, was the backbreaker. He has six goals this postseason, in 23 games after scoring seven in 75 regular-season games.
John Carlson (Capitals) -- Carlson tied Calle Johansson for most career postseason points by a defenseman in Capitals history with 54 on his power-play goal in the second period. Carlson has 19 points (five goals, 14 assists) this postseason. With five goals, Carlson trails Al Iafrate (six) and Sergei Gonchar (seven) for most by a Capitals defenseman in a playoff season.
Braden Holtby (Capitals) -- While not under duress throughout, Holtby made the saves needed to stop the Golden Knights from mounting any kind of a comeback. Vegas dominated the first 10 minutes of each of the first two periods but had nothing to show for it.
Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Holtby on Caps' effort in Game 4 win
Matt Niskanen (up) -- The Capitals defenseman continues to be a workhorse. Monday, he played 21:43, the second-most on the team. He played 4:36 shorthanded, the most on the team.
Kaleb Dahlgren (up) -- During a first-period stoppage, the jumbotron flashed to Dahlgren, one of the survivors of the Humboldt Broncos bus crash that killed 16 people on April 6. Dahlgren, 20, was wearing a yellow Broncos jersey, but pulled it up to reveal a red Capitals jersey underneath, much to the delight of the crowd.
Shea Theodore (down) -- The defenseman, who made several key mistakes in Game 3, struggled again in Game 4. He was on the ice for both even-strength Capitals goals in the first period. His turnover to Alex Ovechkin started the sequence that ended with the Smith-Pelly goal with 21 seconds left in the first. He was minus-3 in Game 4.
James Neal (up) -- He had one of the two goals for Vegas and drove the team early in the game as it tried to exert its will against the Capitals. His hit post on an open net in the first period will be one of the iconic moments of this Final, but he finished with three shots, tied for the team lead. He also had four hits, second on the team behind Ryan Reaves.
Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Neal roofs shot to put Vegas on board
Vegas penalty kill (down) -- The Golden Knights needed a stop to try to stem the bleeding but couldn't get one until it was too late. After dominating the start of the game, they allowed a power-play goal to T.J. Oshie at 9:54. After dominating the second period and looking to cut into a three-goal lead, the Golden Knights allowed a power-play goal to defenseman John Carlson at 15:23 of the second period. Brett Connolly added a late PP goal. The Capitals power play went 3-for-5 in Game 4.
Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman (up) -- The two Washington Nationals players did more than just show up for Game 4 - they wore Capitals jerseys, hockey helmets and clutched hockey sticks as they executed their "Fan of the Game" duties.
The weather (up) -- These are the June days you dream about: mild temperatures, low humidity, a bit of a breeze and plenty of sun. The fans here took advantage of the weather by packing the watch party early.
Nicklas Backstrom (up) -- He had three assists in Game 4 and has 17 assists this postseason, second on the team and third in the playoffs behind Kuznetsov (19) and Blake Wheeler (18) of the Winnipeg Jets.
T.J. Oshie (up) -- With a goal and two assists, Oshie was one of the Capitals in the spotlight, but he was good in so many other areas. He had four shot attempts and three hits. He won four of five face-offs.
Video: T.J. Oshie had a big performance in Game 4
What we learned
Capitals power play is lethal
Washington went 3-for-5 on the power play and has four power-play goals in this series in 12 attempts. For the playoffs, the Capitals have 21 power-play goals, the most of any team since the 2008 Pittsburgh Penguins had 21 in 20 games. Washington's 29.6 conversion rate this postseason (21 of 71) is the third best in history among playoff teams that have played 15 games or more. The 1981 New York Islanders converted on 37.8 percent (31 of 82) and the 1994 Toronto Maple Leafs converted 29.7 percent (22 of 74).
Kempny has been good company for Washington
Defenseman Michal Kempny was traded from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Capitals for a 2018 third-round draft pick Feb. 19. A spare part with the Blackhawks, he has become integral to the Capitals in the playoffs. He scored Monday and has two goals and three assists in 23 postseason games. More importantly, he has provided an average of 18:32 of ice time per game in the Final as part of a highly effective second pairing.
Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Kempny pots one-timer to pad lead
Believe Vegas must
The Golden Knights are in a major hole, needing to win three straight games to win the Stanley Cup. They know they can make that journey only by taking one step at a time. Many in the Vegas locker room believe Game 4 was their best of the series and that puck luck was against them (see the hit post by Neal). Others point out that the Golden Knights swept the Los Angeles Kings in the Western Conference First Round and won four in a row after a Game 1 loss against the Winnipeg Jets in the conference final. This is the type of thinking that will sustain them during what they hope will be a long road back into contention in this series.
More needed from Golden Knights top six
Yes, Neal and Reilly Smith scored Monday, but each of those goals came in the third period with the game all but decided. The top line of Smith, William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault has one goal and four points in the past three games and has played to a collective minus-6. The second line of Neal, Erik Haula and either David Perron or Alex Tuch has two goals, both by Neal, three points and is also minus-6.
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