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5 Keys: Capitals at Golden Knights, Game 2

Washington has to find Ovechkin more; Vegas needs greater impact from second, third lines

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

CAPITALS at GOLDEN KNIGHTS
8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS
Vegas leads best-of-7 series 1-0

 

LAS VEGAS -- The Vegas Golden Knights can take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final when they play Game 2 against the Washington Capitals at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday.

Vegas defeated Washington 6-4 in Game 1.

Since the Stanley Cup Final went to a best-of-7 format in 1939, the team that wins Game 1 has won the series 78.2 percent of the time (61 of 78), including each of the past six years. The losing team in Game 1 has not won the Cup since the 2011 Boston Bruins.

 

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

 

The Golden Knights are 7-1 at home in the playoffs, and the Capitals are 8-3 on the road.

Center Evgeny Kuznetsov has six goals and 10 assists during an 11-game point streak, the longest in the playoffs in Capitals history.

Here are 5 keys for Game 2:

 

1. Goalies bouncing back

Neither Capitals goalie Braden Holtby nor Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury was angry about his performance in Game 1, but each knows he can be better.

Holtby allowed five goals on 33 shots, the most goals he has allowed in 30 games since Feb. 17. Fleury allowed four goals on 28 shots, matching the most goals he has allowed in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Fleury is 3-0 with a 2.23 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in the playoffs in games after he allowed four goals.

Holtby hasn't fared as well after his tougher games. He allowed at least three goals in three straight games twice in the first three rounds, including the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, when he gave up 10 goals on 64 shots in losing Games 3, 4 and 5.

 

2. Washington's play in D zone

The Capitals were content with how they limited rush chances by the Golden Knights, but they weren't happy with how they played in their defensive zone.

Turnovers on breakout attempts from the D zone resulted in two goals-against. In addition, Golden Knights forwards William Karlsson and Reilly Smith went uncovered in around the net, leading to their goals.

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

"Our D zone is so crucial for us to get the puck back quickly, end their zone time, end their cycles," Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen said. "That is where our biggest improvement has to be for us, in our defensive zone."

 

3. Puck movement by Capitals

Quicker and sharper. Those were the two words the Capitals used Tuesday to describe how they must play with the puck in Game 2.

They didn't feel like they moved it well enough or executed sharply enough on passes to put the Golden Knights in vulnerable positions, positions that might require them to commit a penalty to stop a rush chance, a penalty that would give Washington's potent power play a chance.

The Capitals had one power play in Game 1. It was 0-for-1.

"The guy that has the puck is getting swarmed by one, two or three guys, and he has to have options," Washington center Lars Eller said. "We didn't always have options [Monday] night. That will be one of the keys."

 

4. Ovechkin's arrival in Cup Final

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin had an assist on Tom Wilson's go-ahead goal 1:10 into the third period, but the Golden Knights did a good job to limit his time and space in Game 1.

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm1: Wilson credited with go-ahead goal

He was held to two shots on goal, both in the same back-to-back sequence in the slot late in the first period, and five total shot attempts. He had one shot attempt that he missed wide during Washington's lone power play.

The Capitals need to find Ovechkin more in Game 2.

 

5. Middle six for Vegas

The Golden Knights' top line scored two goals, one each from Karlsson and Smith, in Game 1. Their fourth line scored three, two from Tomas Nosek and one from Ryan Reaves. They also got four points from defensemen (one goal, three assists).

Vegas didn't get much from its second or third lines, except for Erik Haula's assist on Colin Miller's goal and David Perron's assist on Nosek's empty-net goal. They need to have a bigger impact in Game 2 because it's asking too much to rely on the fourth line again.

 

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

 

Golden Knights projected lineup

Jonathan Marchessault -- William Karlsson -- Reilly Smith

Alex Tuch -- Erik Haula -- James Neal

David Perron -- Cody Eakin -- Ryan Carpenter

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)

 

Status report

Each team is expected to use the same lineup from Game 1.

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