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Top 20 Cup Final games since 2000: No. 19

Golden Knights defeat Capitals in Game 1 in 2018

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

As the NHL prepares for the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the NHL.com staff selected the best 20 Stanley Cup Final games since 2000. Our 15-writer panel nominated 44 games for consideration before each member voted for his or her favorite 20 from that list. Each favorite game was awarded 20 points, with the selections that followed receiving one fewer point each and so on, down to one point for each 20th-favorite game. Today, we look at Game 1 of the 2018 Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals, which was on six ballots and received 53 points.

 

2018 Game 1: Vegas Golden Knights 6, Washington Capitals 4

The remarkable run of the expansion Golden Knights continued into Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at T-Mobile Arena. And following their season-long script of unpredictability, the game-tying and game-winning goals by the Golden Knights were scored by fourth-line forwards.

The Capitals went ahead 4-3 at 1:10 of the third period when Washington forward Tom Wilson knocked a loose puck under Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.

The lead lasted 91 seconds. Golden Knights forward Ryan Reaves scored from the slot to make it 4-4 at 2:41 after Capitals defenseman Michal Kempny failed to clear the puck from the side of the net under heavy forecheck.

At 9:44 of the third, Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore made a nice play to hold the puck in at the blue line on the left side of the Capitals zone. He skated to the left circle, faking around Washington forward Devante Smith-Pelly and his broken skate guard, and snapped a seam pass across the zone to Tomas Nosek, who one-timed it over the left pad of Washington goalie Braden Holtby to put Vegas ahead 5-4.

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

Lars Eller had a chance to tie the game with 43 seconds left on a great setup in the crease from T.J. Oshie, but Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb got a piece of Eller's stick and the puck rolled past him before he could get a shot off.

Nosek blocked an Alex Ovechkin shot, got the puck back and scored into an empty net with three seconds left for the 6-4 final.

They said it: "That just goes to show you our team, the depth of our group. We have that ability to have that line go out there and make those types of plays. What more can you ask for?" -- Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt

Historical significance: It was the first time the Stanley Cup Final had been played in Las Vegas, and the first time an expansion team had played in the Cup Final since the St. Louis Blues in 1968. ... It was the first Stanley Cup Final game with four lead changes. That had occurred two other times in playoff history, most recently Game 2 of the 1992 Smythe Division Semifinals between the Los Angeles Kings and Edmonton Oilers. ... Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault had an assist on Reilly Smith's goal in the second period to give him 19 points (eight goals, 11 assists) in the playoffs to that point. It was the most by a player on a team making its first postseason appearance. He finished the postseason with 21 points (eight goals, 13 assists) in 20 games. ... John Carlson scored in the second period, giving him 17 postseason goals, passing Kevin Hatcher for most career playoff goals by a Washington defenseman.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Smith cleans up loose puck in front

Iconic moment: The pregame party in Toshiba Plaza outside T-Mobile Arena felt more like a rock concert, with thousands of fans celebrating. Travis Barker of Blink-182 led the traditional game-night drum march and award-winning rap star Lil Jon performed. Inside the arena, the pregame show featured faux archers and catapults, and the Golden Knight winning a sword fight against a warrior in a red Capitals cape. It was a show unlike anything seen before during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Vegas' ceremony kicks off Cup Final

Telling stat: Reaves had scored two goals in 42 career playoff games prior to Game 1 of the Final. Nosek had scored one goal in 12 career playoff games before scoring twice.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Reaves roofs home the equalizer

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