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Capitals know Stanley Cup Final isn't over yet after Game 4 win

Washington not taking Golden Knights for granted despite third straight victory

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Delirious with joy, the Capital One Arena crowd chanted what the Washington Capitals have to be thinking now more than ever. 

"We want the Cup! We want the Cup!"

The Capitals are one win away from their first championship following a 6-2 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday.

 

[RELATED: Oshie delivers for Capitals in Game 4 | Complete Golden Knights vs. Capitals series coverage]

 

Leading the best-of-7 series 3-1 after their third straight win, the Capitals can win the Stanley Cup for the first time in their 43-season history in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

No matter how hard the Capitals try, it's going to be difficult to push that from their minds over the next two days.

"I never been there, you know?" center Evgeny Kuznetsov said of being one win from the Stanley Cup. "And I don't really care about that yet, so it's kind of easy for me. … I'm pretty sure when the game is going to come, we're going to a little bit think about it. It's pretty hard to not think about that."

It's human nature at this point. The Capitals and their fans have been waiting for this for so long and have endured countless Stanley Cup Playoff disappointments along the way.

They hadn't been past the second round since their lone previous Stanley Cup Final appearance in 1998, when they were swept by the Detroit Wings. To be this close now has to be tantalizing.

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Trotz on sticking to game plan in win

There have been 33 previous teams to take a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, and 32 of them won the Cup. The only exception was the 1942 Red Wings, who blew a 3-0 series lead against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We haven't dwelled much on the past," Capitals forward T.J. Oshie said. "We don't really dwell on the game before, let alone the things that have happened in the past. There's been heartbreak here, we know that. But I think that's kind of scarred over and has made us a little stronger for it.

"And we'll just keep pressing on, keep working and try to do something pretty cool here."

Oshie was one of the many Capitals heroes Monday with a goal and two assists. Kuznetsov had another dominant performance with four assists to increase his League-leading and Capitals-record postseason total to 31 (12 goals, 19 assists).

A Conn Smythe Trophy favorite (along with Alex Ovechkin), Kuznetsov is the fifth player since 1997 to reach 30 points in a playoff year, joining Evgeni Malkin (36 in 2009), Sidney Crosby (31 in 2009), Daniel Briere (30 in 2010) and Logan Couture (30 in 2016). He was the 12th player in NHL history to get four assists in a Stanley Cup Final game.

Video: Clutch Performance: Kuznetsov ties Capitals record

Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and six different Capitals scored goals. Devante Smith-Pelly scored his second in as many games. Smith-Pelly's goal with 20.5 seconds remaining in the first period gave Washington a 3-0 lead and proved to be the game-winner.

Defenseman John Carlson scored a power-play goal for his 54th NHL career playoff point (18 goals, 36 assists in 99 games), tying Calle Johansson for most points by a defenseman in Capitals playoff history.

Braden Holtby made 28 saves. He's allowed five goals on 91 shots (.945 save percentage) over the past three games after giving up five on 33 shots (.848 save percentage) in a 6-4 loss in Game 1.

"It feels nice, but it's not over yet," said Ovechkin, who assisted on Smith-Pelly's goal. "We have a couple of days and watch the game. I don't think we played our best."

Vegas was the better team early, and Washington needed some good fortune to weather the storm.

Video: Ovechkin on being one win away from hoisting the cup

Capitals coach Barry Trotz often talks about the hockey gods. For most of their first 42 seasons, they seemed to work against the Capitals. But everything seems to be going their way now.

There was no better example than when Golden Knights forward James Neal hit the right post with an open net in front of him during a power play 4:31 into the game.

"To be honest, I thought it was in (from) my angle, and somehow it didn't go in," Holtby said.

It was one of four posts the Golden Knights hit in Game 4.

"We know they're going to keep pushing forward," Holtby said. "We want to do everything in our power so we don't need breaks to win."

Video: VGK@WSH, Gm4: Holtby, Oshie break down Game 4 win

The first-year Golden Knights have enjoyed a magical ride, and the Capitals know they won't go down easily. They'll have their own boisterous crowd in Vegas, where they are 7-2 this postseason.

But the Capitals have won there once already in this series and are 9-3 on the road in the playoffs.

"You have the opportunity to do something special as a group," Trotz said. "But it's going to be the hardest thing to do, the hardest game to win because there's a very good team on the other side, a very proud team. They're great in their building. We're not scared of their building. We've proved that we're very good on the road and we're going to go there and put our best effort in there.

"We haven't played our best game, which is exciting to me. If we play our best game, then we give ourselves a chance."

***

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