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5 Keys: Golden Knights at Capitals, Game 3

Kuznetsov game-time decision for Washington; Fleury, Vegas seek better puck luck

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer



Best-of-7 series tied 1-1


WASHINGTON -- The Washington Capitals will play their first home game in the Stanley Cup Final since June 16, 1998, a span of 7,291 days, when they take the ice for Game 3 against the Vegas Golden Knights at Capital One Arena on Saturday.

"I know our fans are stoked," Washington coach Barry Trotz said.


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


When the Cup Final has been tied 1-1, the winner of Game 3 has won the Stanley Cup 77.8 percent of the time (21 of 27) since the best-of-7 format was implemented in 1939.

"We know that if we play our game we're going to win," Vegas forward Jonathan Marchessault said. 

Here are five keys for Game 3:


1. Kuznetsov's status

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov, the leading scorer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 25 points (11 goals, 14 assists), is considered a game-time decision because of an upper-body injury he sustained in Game 2, Trotz said. 

All indications are Kuznetsov will play, which would be a huge break for Washington considering he left Game 2 with 5:18 remaining in the first period.

Kuznetsov was in his regular spot on the top line between left wing Alex Ovechkin and right wing Tom Wilson, and on the top power-play unit, at the Capitals morning skate Saturday.


2. Fleury's performance

Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said he thinks he has been fine in this series and isn't sweating his performance even though he has an .870 save percentage (seven goals on 54 shots) after a .947 save percentage (25 goals on 505 shots) in the first three rounds.

Fleury said there have been unfortunate bounces that have led to some of the goals; Washington defenseman Brooks Orpik scored the winning goal in Game 2 on a shot that ricocheted off Vegas forward Alex Tuch's elbow and hit the left post before going in. 

Fleury also kicked the puck into the net on Wilson's goal in Game 1.

Fleury hasn't played his best game yet. He may need to.

Video: Breaking down Fleury's play in the Stanley Cup Final

3. Feeding off the home crowd

Washington is 4-5 at Capital One Arena in the playoffs despite scoring first in six of the games. It is 2-4 when scoring first and has lost three times after taking a 2-0 lead. 

The most recent home game, a 3-0 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 21, was the best game they played at home in the postseason.

"Hopefully that's fresh in our minds and we can continue that," Orpik said.


4. Marchessault's turn

Marchessault, who led Vegas with 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in the first three rounds, hasn't made a big impact in this series. He had no points and was minus-2 despite a game-high nine shots on goal in Game 2. He had an assist and was even with five shots in Game 1. 

"I don't even recall having a good shot on net out of the nine," Marchessault said of Game 2. "I don't care how many shots I take, I just want to take quality shots and definitely they weren't quality shots."

Marchessault said his line, with William Karlsson and Reilly Smith, needs to be better handling the puck through the neutral zone and using its speed to chase down loose pucks.


5. Protecting Holtby

The Capitals felt one of their strongest areas in Game 2 was their play in front of goaltender Braden Holtby. He faced 39 shots and made 37 saves, but Vegas was held mostly on the perimeter.

Nineteen of the Golden Knights' 39 shots were from 40 feet or farther. Another six were from at least 30 feet out. Holtby didn't allow many rebounds, and Washington also blocked 18 shots, including 11 by forwards. 

"Our [defense] did a better job of tying up sticks, boxing out, winning a few more battles around our net, in the corners," defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "Our forwards did a really good job in Game 2 of collapsing."

Video: How Braden Holtby made that big save in Game 2


Golden Knights projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

David Perron -- Erik Haula -- James Neal

Ryan Carpenter -- Cody Eakin -- Alex Tuch

Tomas Nosek -- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- Ryan Reaves

Brayden McNabb -- Nate Schmidt

Shea Theodore -- Deryk Engelland

Luca Sbisa -- Colin Miller

Marc-Andre Fleury

Maxime Lagace

Scratched: Jon Merrill, Brad Hunt, Oscar Lindberg, Tomas Tatar

Injured: William Carrier (undisclosed), Malcolm Subban (undisclosed)


Capitals projected lineup

Alex Ovechkin -- Evgeny Kuznetsov -- Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana -- Nicklas Backstrom -- T.J. Oshie

Andre Burakovsky -- Lars Eller -- Brett Connolly

Chandler Stephenson -- Jay Beagle -- Devante Smith-Pelly

Dmitry Orlov -- Matt Niskanen

Michal Kempny -- John Carlson

Brooks Orpik -- Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby

Philipp Grubauer

Scratched: Alex Chiasson, Madison Bowey, Jakub Jerabek, Shane Gersich, Travis Boyd, Nathan Walker, Pheonix Copley

Injured: None


Status report

Vegas coach Gerard Gallant said Carrier is progressing and he's close but not yet an option to play in the series.


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