Lars Eller had a hand in all three Washington Capitals goals as they beat the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-2, to tie the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final Series at one game each. Eller scored a goal and assisted on markers by Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Orpik to give Washington the victory. Orpik hadn’t scored in 220 games.
Braden Holtby made 37 saves to help the Capitals steal home-ice advantage in the series. Washington’s penalty kill came up big as it killed off four of five extra-man attempts.
Game three will be 8 p.m. Saturday at Capital One Arena. It will be the first Stanley Cup final game held in America’s capital since 1998.
Let’s look at three keys to the game.
Lars Eller Has Big Night
The Swedish forward stepped up in the early rounds of the playoffs, but had a couple of bad games in the Eastern Conference final. Eller returned to his early postseason form to power the Caps to victory.
Eller was able to tie the game after Neal’s opener by catching Fleury out of position. The Capitals took the lead when Ovechkin found room on an open side and Orpik scored the game-winner. Both goals stemmed from great passes by Eller.
He stepped up after Washington lost Evgeny Kuznetsov to injury. Nicklas Backstrom moved up into Kuznetsov’s spot while Eller played Backstrom’s role. Eller played in Backstrom’s spot when the latter was injured earlier in the playoffs.
He won some key late-game faceoffs for Washington. Eller’s return to form may lead the Capitals to their first Stanley Cup if he keeps it up.
Washington’s win was huge considering they lost the talented Russian early in the first period after a hit from Brayden McNabb. Kuznetsov’s name has been tossed around as a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate.
He did not return to the game after the hit and his status for Game 3 is questionable. He’ll likely try to return to the lineup, but Washington will have to be ready if he can’t go. Eller filled in well in Game 2, but Kuznetsov will be needed if Washington wants to win it all.
Holtby Holds Em
Vegas has a golden chance to send the game to overtime, but Holtby denied Alex Tuch with a wide-open net. The chance came with one minute, 59 seconds left to go in regulation.
Tuch looked ready to bury the one-timer, but Holtby was able to stick his goal stick out and deny the sure game-tying goal. The save is likely the save of the postseason so far.
Holtby’s save wasn’t the only one in the last two minutes as he denied a few chances with time running out. He was big early and came up huge late despite having long stretches without facing a shot. Not bad considering he didn’t start the team’s opening playoff games back in the first round.
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