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Battle for the Cup Continues, Capitals Tie Series at 1

Ovechkin celebrates his goal. — by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports
Ovechkin celebrates his goal. — by Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

With two games under their belts, it’s easy to see this is going to be a grueling series between Las Vegas and Washington. Both teams are putting up quite a ferocious battle and, as to be expected in the Stanley Cup Final, tensions are extremely high.

Hard hits delivered on both sides have created the type of animosity that gets fights going and fans fired up. Unfortunately for the Capitals however, it can also get players injured. Brayden McNabb delivered a hard hit that crushed Evgeny Kuznetsov into the boards late in the first period. Kuznetsov was very clearly in agony as he skated to the bench, holding his left arm. He did not return to the game.

Losing Kuznetsov will no doubt be a huge blow to the Capitals, as he has been their leading goal scorer in the playoffs thus far, tallying 25 points. Barry Trotz didn’t miss a beat though, quickly shuffling his guys around the lineup to compensate. And they did not disappoint. Lars Eller stepped up, potting a beautiful goal with 2:32 to go in the first period to tie the game at 1. He collected two assists on the game, as well.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Capitals have faced adversity in the post-season and prevailed. Nicklas Backstrom missed a few games with an injury early on and Braden Holtby wasn’t even the starting goaltender to begin the playoffs, but he’s been outstanding the past two series. His stellar performance in Game 2 was capped off by a monster save against Alex Tuch with two minutes to go in the third, keeping the Caps on top.

The Capitals made an impressive show of their penalty kill, as well, shutting down the Knights in a crucial 5 on 3 situation after consecutive penalties landed the notorious Tom Wilson and Lars Eller in the box late in the game. This was a key moment for the Golden Knights, yet they were unable to capitalize.

Despite coming on strong early in the game when Pinball Wizard, James Neal handled a crazy bouncing puck and slung it past Holtby for a 1-0 lead in the first period, and another beautiful goal from Shea Theodore who fired a seeing eye puck from the blue line late in the second, Vegas was unable to produce much of anything in the third. Tuch’s attempt to tie up the game was the most exciting thing the Knights did all period and the Capitals walked away with a 3-2 win.

But, you can be sure that neither side is going down easy and the series will only get crazier from here. There are strong motives on both sides. Both teams are hungry for the Cup and it’s going to come down to who wants it more. Alex Ovechkin and his Caps, who have never before entered a Stanley Cup final? Or will it be the shiny new team from an unlikely city, riding on everyone’s low expectations, who take the Cup this year?

Game 3 will take place Saturday at 8 PM in Washington.