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Stanley Cup Final

Ovechkin, Capitals remain confident against Golden Knights in Cup Final

Has one assist for Washington in back-and-forth loss in Game 1

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS -- Alex Ovechkin's first Stanley Cup Final experience was a roller-coaster ride of early nerves, rust and excitement, but he was undeterred by the Washington Capitals' 6-4 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 at T-Mobile Arena on Monday.

In Ovechkin's view, the Capitals didn't come close to playing their best game and stood toe-to-toe with the Golden Knights in an electric atmosphere on the road. Although a defensive-zone breakdown led to Tomas Nosek's game-winning goal at 9:44 of the third period, Ovechkin was positive the Capitals can rebound in Game 2 of the best-of-7 series here Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"Yeah, 100 percent confidence," Ovechkin said. "You can't take only one game in this series. It's going to be a long series, it's going to be a hard series and I think we're going to be ready for that."

 

[RELATED: Holtby struggles with 'rust' in Game 1 loss | Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

The Capitals certainly have a lot to clean up in Game 2. They had trouble breaking out of their zone against the Golden Knights' relentless pressure, particularly at the start of the first and second periods when they fell behind 1-0 and 3-2.

That they answered to take the leads of 2-1 and 4-3 was encouraging, but Washington was unable to maintain its momentum either time.

After Brett Connolly (14:41) and Nicklas Backstrom (15:23) scored 42 seconds apart in the first period to give Washington a 2-1 lead, Vegas tied it with a goal from William Karlsson 2:56 later.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Caps tally two 42 seconds apart in 1st

At 1:10 of the third period, Tom Wilson scored on a deflection of Ovechkin's shot from the right circle to give the Capitals a 4-3 lead. Ryan Reaves tied it on a goal from in front 1:31 later.

"We didn't play our best game," Ovechkin said. "I think we didn't execute the puck in the neutral zone at some points. But we're going to watch the video, we're going to watch the highlights and we're going to correct our mistakes and we're going to be better."

Ovechkin finished with one assist, two shots on goal (each in the first period), four hits and a blocked shot in 19:09 of ice time.

"I think next game is going to be different and all the nervousness, all the bad things go away in this game," he said. "We just have to forget about it and bounce back in the next one."

Ovechkin's nerves and excitement were understandable. He's waited 13 seasons to reach this point. But to Capitals coach Barry Trotz, Ovechkin wasn't alone in that regard.

"It was the first experience for some guys in this building against [the Golden Knights]," Trotz said. "I'm confident we have another level. To me, that's exciting."

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Trotz on team's start, adjustments

Although the Capitals were in their locker room for the extravagant pregame show that energized the crowd of 18,575, they saw how the Golden Knights were able to feed off it early on.

Vegas set a frantic pace, outshooting Washington 8-2 over the first 13:48 and grabbing a 1-0 lead on defenseman Colin Miller's power-play blast from the right point at 7:15. The Golden Knights made a similar push at the start of the second, taking the first six shots of the period before Reilly Smith gave them a 3-2 lead at 3:21.

Washington battled back in each period, but was never able to fully get control of the pace, which the Vegas dictated for most of the night.

"It's a pretty incredible atmosphere out there, so they were feeding off their crowd and we knew they were going to come and they did," Connolly said. "And we answered it early. We did a good job of that and it just seemed like we'd get up by one and they'd come back and they'd score one. They just kept pushing."

The Capitals will need to push back in Game 2, but they've been in this position before. They lost Game 1 in each of their first two series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Nosek nets Theodore's perfect feed

The difference this time is they lost Game 1 on the road. Washington has been comfortable on the road throughout the playoffs (8-2 through the first three rounds), but playing at T-Mobile Arena, where the Golden Knights are 7-1 in the postseason, is another challenge.

"It's one game," Wilson said. "It's a long series. There's a lot of hockey left. We proved that we can fight in their building. You lose by a goal (without empty-net goal) when you weren't playing your best hockey. So we have some more tape now, we're a little more familiar with them and we'll regroup and come back for Game 2."

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