Rarely does an event exceed its own hype, but game one of the Stanley Cup finals between the Vegas Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals was one of the best openers in recent history. Instead of a low scoring affair, both teams blitzed the opposing defense, ending the first period with a 2-2 draw. Tom Wilson nearly destroyed Vegas with a borderline check on Marchessault and the leading goal only 1:10 into the final frame, but the Golden Knights rallied with three unanswered tallies, sparking Vegas faithful into a frenzy.
This victory extended the Golden Knights streak to five wins, including a gentleman’s sweep of the Winnipeg Jets in the western conference finals. Game two will be pivotal for Vegas, because Washington’s proven capable of seizing a small window of opportunity throughout the 2018 NHL playoffs. The Capitals are no longer weighed down by the Curse of Crosby, developing mental toughness and confidence which helped them earn comeback series wins against the Bolts and Blue Jackets. Vegas will attempt to avoid another track meet, doubling down on defense in game two.For the first time all season, the Vegas Golden Knights finally looked like an expansion team, stumbling to a dispiriting game four loss in Washington, DC. A few posts and bad bounces over the first couple of periods snowballed into an insurmountable lead for the Capitals, who squelched a third-period Vegas comeback to finish with a 6-2 win in front of a rabid crowd in the U.S. Capitol. The Cinderella story for the Golden Knights will need a spectacular finish for Vegas to wear Stanley Cup slippers in 2018.
Game five returns to Sin City, where the Golden Knights have dominated for much of the playoffs. Despite the lopsided score, Vegas competed well against Washington a few days ago, which may be considered encouraging or damning, depending on point of view. Winning three games in a row against a Capitals club seemingly destined for the cup might not be realistic, but the Golden Knights will be a desperate team, aiming to avoid elimination in front of their own crowd. Game five will anoint a new Stanley Cup champion or extend the drama.