LAS VEGAS — With a combined nine goals allowed, it was an uncharacteristic night for the goalies in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final.
Washington’s Braden Holtby allowed five goals for the first time in the playoffs, while Vegas’ Marc-Andre Fleury, who entered the series with a .947 save percentage, allowed four goals for only the fourth time in the playoffs.
Unlike the previous three times when that happened, Fleury still walked away with a win because the Golden Knights scored six goals.
“I just want to stop them all,” he said. “It doesn’t matter — you can score 10, you still don’t want to give up any. That being said, I think it’s fun to play for a team that never quits, that always has a chance to come back in the game.”
Holtby, meanwhile, chalked up his shaky performance to the rust going four days between games.
“First bit it took a bit to get back into game mode,” said Holtby. “Sometimes when you have a long break, you force things preparation-wise. It just doesn’t come naturally … you look at all the goals, there’s a couple of minor things, but some of those goals were strange. That’s hockey. That’s the way it goes.”
So, does the offensive explosion in Game 1 indicate that this will be a high-scoring series? Hopefully not, said Fleury.
“It was exciting to watch, I think, but not the goalies’ favourite, I’ll say,” he said. “We’ll see, you never know. It’s a long series. I think both teams have guys that can score and create. It’s a quick pace, both teams are fast. We’ll see.”
One player who did not score and did not even create much offensively was Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals sniper has scored a team-leading 12 goals in the playoffs, but he managed just two shots — his fewest since Game 4 of the second round — and picked up an assist.
That Washington only had one power play was a big reason why Ovechkin, who has nine points on the man-advantage, was kept so quiet.
“I think that’s a big key, staying out of the box,” said Fleury. “That’s the No. 1 thing. They’re very dangerous on the PP and he is also. I thought we were good at it, staying disciplined throughout the game.”
PLAYING WITH FIRE
David Perron was lucky that he received only a minor penalty when he hopped over the boards after a whistle and then proceeded to cross-check Ovechkin to the ice following Washington’s Tom Wilson’s questionable hit on Vegas’ Jonathan Marchessault.
So, what was he thinking?
“Just testing out my edge,” Perron said, laughing. “I was going to see the ref, to be honest with you. I heard the whistle, so I went on to go see the ref to find out what was going to happen … (and) Ovie ran into me.”
At the same time, Perron understands that he got away with one.
“I got to be careful,” he said. “I know what the rule is and all that. Obviously, there was no intention for me to do anything or start anything. After (Ovechkin) ran into me, I kind of pushed him a little bit.”
FAST AND FASTER
There’s been a lot of talk about the Golden Knights’ speed this season and in the playoffs. But when asked whether Vegas was the fastest team in the NHL, Washington’s Evgeny Kuznetsov flatly said no.
“Our team,” he said. “Every night is different, but I don’t feel last night like they are fast like you guys think.”
DROP THE PUCK
Not everyone appreciated that the Golden Knights brought out Michael “Let’s get ready to rumble” Buffer to handle the player introductions, which because of his elongated vocal delivery seemed to stretch on forever and ever.
“I was surprised,” said Ovechkin, who wanted to get the game going. “Usually after we enter, we start playing right away. But he was up there, like … OK, go. It’s not boxing. It’s a hockey game.”
CARLSON IS ELITE
With 17 points in 20 games, Washington’s John Carlson leads all defencemen in playoff scoring. It’s not surprising, considering that he also led his position with 68 points in the regular season.
For Carlson, it was a 31-point increase from the year before.
“He’s done a lot of stuff with our staff,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. “I think what’s happened with John is he’s always been a talent and when you have very talented players, sometimes maybe he didn’t know who he is and what it takes to get to the next level. I think he’s learned and grown into that … (and) become an elite defenceman in the National Hockey League.”
PUT AWAY THE WHISTLES
Carlson, who was cross-checked to the ice by Vegas’ Ryan Reaves before he scored the tying goal in the third period, was asked if he’d like the refs to call a stricter game.
“You don’t want to have 12 penalties on each team,” said Carlson. “They’re going to let a little more stuff go, which is fine, as long as they’re doing it evenly that’s all that you can ask for.”
And yet, Carlson was surprised Reaves did not receive a penalty.
“I don’t know if surprised is the right word,” he said. “I don’t know. It’s a penalty, but what are you going to do.”
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