Capitals at Golden Knights Game 5 Preview
The Washington Capitals are venturing to Vegas with more than just breaking the bank on their minds – they are looking to capture their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history. The Capitals can do precisely that on Thursday as they look to secure Washington’s first professional sports championship since 1992 with a win over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 at T-Mobile Arena.
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While teams that hold a 3-1 series lead on the NHL’s grandest stage own a 32-1 record, the Capitals have failed to close the deal with that same advantage on a league-most five occasions in their star-crossed history – and as recently as 2015 against the New York Rangers. “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,” said Washington forward T.J. Oshie, who scored a goal and set up two others in Monday’s 6-2 romp to give him 17 points (five goals, 12 assists) in his past 15 contests. While the Capitals are looking to exorcise some demons, Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said his expansion team essentially is playing with the house’s money. “The pressure is off us now,” Gallant told reporters in a conference call. “We’re going to go out and play and work hard and go have some fun. So we’ll see what happens.”
TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, Sportsnet, TVA
ABOUT THE CAPITALS: The recipient of the Conn Smythe Trophy has been a heated debate in Washington, with some tabbing Braden Holtby (15-7, 2.13 goals-against average) as the front-runner since his paddle save on the doorstep in the waning moments of Game 2 arguably turned this series around. The former Vezina Trophy winner recorded consecutive shutouts to eliminate Tampa Bay in the Eastern Conference finals and has won five of six overall, with a .965 save percentage in those victories. Three-time Hart Trophy winner Alex Ovechkin (NHL high-tying 14 goals, 12 assists) and fellow Russian countryman Evgeny Kuznetsov (12 goals, 19 assists) are also in the mix, with the latter netting four assists on Monday to become the fifth player since 1997 to reach the 30-point plateau in a single postseason – moving within five points of the 36 recorded by Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin in the 2009 playoffs.
ABOUT THE GOLDEN KNIGHTS: James Neal has reached the 20-goal plateau in all of his 10 NHL seasons, but the 30-year-old felt a bit snake-bitten during the first period of Game 4 when his bid into an open net caromed off the far post. “Man, you want those chances,” Neal told reporters. “Nine times out of 10, you probably put that in the back of the net.” Three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury hasn’t been receiving as many fortunate bounces of late, as he has answered a 12-3 mark with a .947 save percentage in the first three rounds with a 1-3 record and .845 save percentage in the Final.
1. Washington C Nicklas Backstrom notched three assists in Game 4, boosting his total to nine points (two goals, seven assists) in his past six contests.
2. Vegas, which has dropped three in a row, did not lose four straight games during its inaugural season.
3. The 1942 Detroit Red Wings are the lone team to lose the Stanley Cup Final after holding a 3-1 series lead.