• Statistical stars: Evgeny Kuznetsov was wizard-like once more. (Read more)
• Top takeaways: A fast start yielded nothing but frustration for Vegas, as Washington is now a single victory away from winning the Stanley Cup. (Read more)
• Highlights: The Capitals weathered an early flourish from the Golden Knights, got a little help from a goal post and then took a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal by T.J. Oshie. Tom Wilson extended the lead to 2-0 late in the first period. Devante Smith-Pelly piled it on with another goal in the final minute of the first.
The Capitals endured more good chances from the Knights in the second period, but instead it was Washington that struck again, with John Carlson converting on the power play.
The Caps lead 5-2 in the third period after a James Neal goal ended the shutout bid by Braden Holtby and Reilly Smith added another with just over 7:30 remaining.
Michal Kempny added Washington’s fifth goal of the night shortly after Smith’s and Brett Connolly accounted for the sixth. (Read more)
• Postgame reading: The Capitals are getting consistent secondary scoring from an underrated supporting cast. (Read more)
Washington Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov plopped down in his dressing room stall Saturday and smirked at the crowd of reporters around him. After an injury scare that caused him to miss most of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals, Kuznetsov was seemingly no worse for wear — and luckily so.
“I think I’m born lucky,” Kuznetsov said with shrug and a smile.
Two nights later, against a team from Las Vegas of all places, all of Capital One Arena looked lucky Monday night when the Capitals pulled within one win of their first Stanley Cup championship with a 6-2 victory over the Golden Knights in Game 4. Washington took a three-games-to-one series lead as Vegas hit three posts, perhaps retribution for all the bad bounces that have previously haunted the franchise. A lot has differentiated this Capitals team from past renditions, but perhaps nothing more so than fortune in a game where a frozen disc of vulcanized rubber can rattle around in so many directions.
But then Washington capitalized on the breaks and poured it on — they were both lucky and good. Thanks to three early primary assists from Kuznetsov, who finished with four points total and is just the fifth player since 1997 to record more than 30 points in a single postseason, the Capitals reeled off the first four goals to take control of the game and this finals series. With the game well in hand with less than four minutes left, fans fearlessly chanted, “We want the Cup.”
“That is what you play for, so I think you use it for emotion,” forward Tom Wilson said. “You use it to drive you forward. That’s it. You don’t think too far ahead, but that is what you are playing for and it is there the whole playoffs.”
Coach Barry Trotz has often spoke of the “hockey gods,” and they seemed to be smiling on his team from the start. Vegas forward Erik Haula tipped a shot just 1:07 into the first period, but the puck caromed off the post. That lucky break didn’t compare to the one Washington got 4:31 into the game, when James Neal had a wide-open net to shoot into with Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby out of position during a Golden Knights power play. Neal inexplicably hit the post, squandering an opportunity to lift Vegas to an early lead.
“To be honest, I thought it was in from my angle and somehow it didn’t go in,” Holtby said. “I thought we worked for our breaks tonight, though. . . . We want to do everything in our power so we don’t need breaks to win. We can just focus on our game, do the little things right and keep pushing forward.”
To that point, the Golden Knights had pressured the Capitals with some of their best chances in the past three games. But Washington took advantage of its fortune. Vegas defenseman Colin Miller stuck a leg out to blatantly trip center Lars Eller 9:22 into the game, and 32 seconds into the subsequent power play, Capitals winger T.J. Oshie scored on a rebound of Kuznetsov’s shot. Oshie went on to add two assists.
Though play continued to be fairly even throughout the first period, Washington made the scoreboard lopsided. Kuznetsov set up a Wilson wrister that extended the Capitals’ lead to two through 16:26. Kuznetsov has points in 13 of his past 14 playoff games — he didn’t record a point in Game 2, when he missed the final two periods with an “upper-body” injury — and he is the postseason’s leading scorer with 12 goals and 19 assists, a leading candidate to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player of the playoffs.
Kuznetsov was on the ice for the Capitals’ third goal, too. Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen’s shot was blocked by Jonathan Marchessault in front of the net, but the puck bounced over to forward Devante Smith-Pelly, who punched it past goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. Fleury had a .947 save percentage entering this series, but the Capitals have now scored 16 goals on him through four games.
“It could have been a different hockey game if they scored on their power play, so we got a little lucky there,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “Yeah, I don’t know, maybe it shouldn’t have been a 3-0 lead after the first, but, you know, we will take it. We are not going to feel sorry for them.”
It was a a display of everything that has carried Washington. The power play has been dangerous, and the Capitals’ stars have found ways to produce at even strength. Washington has also gotten secondary scoring, goals from unheralded players such as Smith-Pelly, who had just seven in the regular season and now has six through 23 playoff games.
Less than nine minutes into the second period, the Golden Knights hit a third post when Brayden McNabb’s wrist shot pinged away from Holtby. But when shots got through, Holtby was sharp, recording 22 saves through two periods and 28 overall. In a change from past Washington playoff runs, the Capitals have the hot goaltender; Holtby has allowed just five goals on 91 shots in three straight wins.
After Vegas’s power play had folded on its first three tries, Neal was called for slashing 14:45 into the second period. With defenseman John Carlson in Alex Ovechkin’s usual sweet spot in the left faceoff circle, Oshie got tangled up with Vegas’s Cody Eakin, clearing a lane for Kuznetsov to set up Carlson’s one-timer. With the Capitals up by four goals, Carlson screamed as teammates circled around him. Kuznetsov was the fifth player there, his teammates taking turns patting him on the helmet.
Maybe you have to be good to be lucky.
1. Evgeny Kuznetsov: 4 assists, 4 shot attempts and a takeaway
2. Tom Wilson: goal, 4 hits, 3 takeaways and 1 blocked shot
3. Devante Smith-Pelly: 1 goal, 3 scoring chances, 1 takeaway, 1 hit and 1 blocked shot
The Washington Capitals are the official winners of Game 4 but you could argue Vegas was the better team. The Golden Knights had more scoring chances both overall (31 to 21) and from the high-danger areas (13 to 8) but converted just two. Washington had no such problems, hitting pay dirt on 6 of 23 shots on net (26 percent).
The Capitals have to be feeling good about the latest win. In the history of the NHL, 33 teams have enjoyed a 3-1 series lead in the Stanely Cup finals. Only the 1942 Detroit Red Wings failed to hoist the Cup, while 32 walked away champions.
One to go: So, this might actually be happening. The Capitals — the can’t-make-it-out-of-the-second-round Capitals — are one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history, and they’ll have three chances to get it after taking a commanding 3-1 series lead with a rousing 6-2 victory at home. Sure, the Capitals have a history of relinquishing such advantages, but it should be readily apparent to even the most cynical of fans by now that this group is different. Right?
Fast start: The Golden Knights rang a couple of shots off the post in the first five minutes of Monday’s game, including one by winger James Neal, who was staring at a wide-open net and a 1-0 lead. It was easy to forget the Capitals’ early good fortune after they took a 3-0 lead into the first intermission on a power play goal from T.J. Oshie, a one-timer from in front of the net by Tom Wilson and, with 20 seconds remaining in the period, a nifty move and top-shelf finish by Devante Smith-Pelly. That’s six goals in 23 postseason games for Smith-Pelly, who scored seven times in 75 regular season games.
Special teams: Washington was 1 for 7 on the power play in the series after being held scoreless in four opportunities on Saturday, but the Capitals’ special teams were clicking in Game 4. Oshie got things started in the first period with his sixth power-play goal of the postseason. John Carlson beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a wicked slapper less than a minute after Neal was sent to the penalty box for slashing late in the second. Brett Connolly capped the scoring with Washington’s third power-play goal on its fifth opportunity of the night.
Meanwhile, the Capitals’ penalty-killing unit, perhaps hardened from seven games against the Lightning, held the Golden Knights without a goal in four chances at five-on-four. That’ll do.
Holt-beast: Braden Holtby benefited from some aforementioned puck luck and allowed a pair of third-period goals, but the Capitals’ goalie made several difficult saves on high-danger scoring chances in the first 40 minutes as Washington built a 4-0 lead. Since allowing five goals in Game 1, Holtby, who finished with 28 saves, has allowed five goals in the last three games combined, all of them Capitals wins. He’s a major reason why Washington moved over .500 (6-5) at Capital One Arena for the first time this postseason. With Game 5 set for Thursday in Las Vegas, the Capitals would rather not play at home again this season.
Final: Capitals 6, Golden Knights 2
After a chippy ending that saw several players tossed from the final minute, Washington closed the book on a dominant victory that puts the Capitals one win away from the franchise’s first-ever Stanley Cup.
And another one: Brett Connolly beat Marc-Andre Fleury short side with 1:09 to play to give the Capitals a 6-2 lead, and no one in Capital One Arena was happier than his No. 1 fan Keelan Moxley. — SA
We Want the Cup: As the teams engaged in late-game pushing and shoving following a vicious hit from Brayden McNabb on T.J. Oshie, the Washington fans filled the gap in action with what’s become Washington’s favorite chant: “We want the Cup! We want the Cup!” Then they booed the Knights. – DS
An ugly hit by McNabb: A tripping penalty on former Capital Nate Schmidt gave Washington a late power play, and 47 seconds into the man advantage, Brayden McNabb drilled T.J. Oshie into the boards from behind with a cross-check. NBC’s Eddie Olczyk speculated that McNabb’s hit was retaliation for Capitals Coach Barry Trotz sending out his No. 1 power play unit in a three-goal game with less than three minutes to play. – SA
Trust my heart rate: Here is a fancy stat for you: My heart rate never really changed all that much, even when the Caps gave up those two unanswered goals. You will read a lot of pieces in the next few days, including some on this site, about how this team and this year and this spring are all different. Whether that ends up being true or not, I can tell you that my heart has adjusted to the newly unflappable Caps. It just kept on lazily ticking along, and then the Caps scored, and the drama was over. – DS
Some insurance: With the teams skating 4-on-4 following coincidental roughing minors on Ryan Reaves and Tom Wilson, the Capitals pushed their lead back to three on Michael Kempny’s second goal of the playoffs. Kempny buried a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury off a perfect pass from Nicklas Backstrom, and Capitals fans inside and outside Capital One Arena were breathing a little easier with less than 6 minutes remaining – SA
The lead is two: Brett Connolly’s No. 1 fan won’t like this. A failed clearing attempt by Connolly wound up on the stick of Jonathan Marchessault, who found Reilly Smith for a shot that beat Braden Holtby and cut the Capitals’ lead to 4-2 with 7:34 to play. – SA
Brett Connolly’s No. 1 fan is here: Out of a TV timeout with 8:51 remaining in the game, NBC’s cameras panned to Keelan Moxley, the young fan who received a puck — after a couple of failed attempts — from Brett Connolly in Game 2 of the Capitals’ first-round series against Columbus. – SA
Breakaway for the captain: With Nate Schmidt draped all over him, Alex Ovechkin made a one-handed bid to push the Capitals’ lead back to four on a breakaway, but Marc-Andre Fleury came out of his net to challenge Ovechkin and stacked his pads to deny what would’ve been a highlight-reel goal. – SA
There goes the shutout: Seconds after Evgeny Kuznetsov’s penalty expired, James Neal got some redemption for missing a wide-open net in the first period by roofing a shot past Braden Holtby. With 14:17 remaining in the game, the Capitals lead 4-1. As NBC’s Doc Emrick just noted, only one team in Stanley Cup finals history has overcome a four-goal, third-period deficit. It’s probably too early to start worrying about that, but there it is for future reference. Or not. – SA
Plenty of 5-on-4 action: Committing penalties is no recipe for erasing a 4-0 deficit, but Vegas’s Erik Haula slashed Alex Ovechkin less than two minutes into the third period to put Washington on the power play for the third time. The Golden Knights’ penalty-killing unit came through, and shortly after Haula left the penalty box, Evgeny Kuznetsov was assessed a minor for tripping. – SA
Holtby is still incredible: It remains sort of hard to believe that Braden Holtby began these playoffs on the bench. Remember that? It was, like, another lifetime. Like, he was benched, on the merits. As NBC’s Doc Emrick pointed out, Holtby has faced 169 shots since Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals, and given up just eight goals. And one of them came in Game 3, when Holtby accidentally passed the puck directly to Vegas. Maybe he’s just well-rested. – DS
Please rock the red responsibly: So said the message posted outside the arena before the third intermission. Don’t climb stuff, basically. Or drink stuff. Or throw stuff. Feel free to scream stuff, though. – DS
Baltimore love: The Caps’ run to the finals has earned strong television ratings in the Baltimore market, where the Orioles have been wearing Caps gear before games. Now the Ravens are on board, too: Look at M&T Bank Stadium as the Capitals dominated Game 4 at home. – DS
You don’t score, until you score: The Golden Knights had 13 scoring chances in the second period, giving them 24 for the night, but they are still without a goal in the game. The top line of William Karlsson, Ryan Reaves and Jonathan Marchessault continues to struggle, mustering three even-strength shots between them. Goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t look sharp, allowing two goals against on 11 shots at 5-on-5 and another two goals on four shots during the penalty kill. And the Vegas power play has come up short on all seven scoring chances.
You might say they are looking like an expansion team. – NG
End Period 2: Capitals 4, Golden Knights 0
The Capitals, who got a power play goal in the second period from John Carlson to extend their lead to 4-0, are 20 minutes away from taking a commanding 3-1 series lead back to Las Vegas for Game 5. Washington is 11-2 when leading after two periods, and before NBC headed to commercial at intermission, analyst Eddie Olczyk suggested Golden Knights Coach Gerard Gallant give goalie Marc-Andre Fleury the rest of the night off to rest up for a potential must-win game on Thursday. – SA
Five denied: Looking to add to their lead, the Capitals had a 2-on-1 with Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov leading the charge late in the second period, but a sliding Deryk Engelland made a nice play to deflect Ovechkin’s crossing attempt into the air before it was snagged by Marc-Andre Fleury. – SA
A … four-goal lead: Remember when we told you the Caps had never led a Stanley Cup finals game by three goals? That means they’d also never led one by four. Until Monday night. The Caps have also scored 10 of the last 12 goals in this series. – DS
Power play strikes again: James Neal slashed Brooks Orpik in front of Braden Holtby with five minutes remaining in the period, and for the second time tonight, the Capitals’ power play made the Golden Knights pay. Marc-Andre Fleury had no chance to stop John Carlson’s slapper from the point, which deflected high off the inside of the post to Fleury’s left and into the back of the net for a 4-0 Washington lead. – SA
Knights don’t hit on 21: Vegas has 21 scoring chances in Game 4, nine from the slot or crease. Based on how often those chances converts to goals, the probability Vegas would be 0 for 21 is just 8 percent. In other words, they are getting very, very unlucky tonight. — NG
All hail the post: Vegas hit three posts in the first half of this game. Washingtonians haven’t seen such a remarkable performance from The Post since that one time the Capital Weather Gang wrote a really great forecast. – DS
PK comes through again: Washington’s penalty-killing unit is three-for-three after the Golden Knights failed to capitalize on a Tom Wilson cross-checking penalty midway through the second period. The Capitals blocked at least three shots during the man advantage and is up to 14 for the game. – SA
Puck luck goes both ways: On a Washington 3-on-2 rush, a Devante Smith-Pelly snapshot deflected off Marc-Andre Fleury’s right shoulder and in front of Michal Kempny, but the Capitals’ defenseman whiffed on his shot and the puck trickled behind the net. A minute later, Golden Knights winger Tomas Tatar rang a shot off the post. There have been a lot of close calls in the first half of the second period, but no goals in the frame thus far. – SA
Look at this scene: These are unforgettable scenes playing out in downtown Washington.
Nothing doing for the Knights: Vegas had its second man-advantage of the night after a sliding John Carlson tripped William Karlsson 5:21 into the second period, but Washington’s penalty-killing unit and Braden Holtby were up to the task. The Golden Knights managed one shot over the next two minutes and are now 2 for 10 on the power play in the series. – SA
In the face: The Capitals’ first shot of the second period came a little more than two minutes in, and it was a wicked one. Christian Djoos took a pass at the blue line, and with no defender challenging him, crept toward the net before whistling a shot directly off Marc-Andre Fleury’s mask. Fleury made the save, but that couldn’t have felt good. – SA
A three-goal lead: Maybe this goes without saying, but Washington had never before enjoyed a three-goal lead in a Stanley Cup finals game. It’s fitting, since I’m not quite sure I’ve ever seen something like that period from the Capitals in the postseason. – DS
Caps applying pressure: Shots are even at 11-11, but most of Vegas’s chances came in the first half of the period. So, what changed?
“Washington pushed back,” NBC analyst Mike Milbury said during the first intermission. “They’ve done what they’ve done throughout this series, start to put pressure on the defense of the Vegas Golden Knights, and that caused them to start making some really bad decisions. … It was the speed of the Capitals and the decision-making of the Knights.”
“The difference is confidence and lacking confidence,” fellow analyst Keith Jones said. “Vegas clearly lacking confidence. They missed three prime chances to score. Washington took full advantage of their opportunities.” – SA
Dale Jr. on Washington sports: “They’re gonna want to drink a lot of beer tonight if they win this game,” the famous Redskins fan said of the D.C. crowd during an intermission interview with NBC. “I know there’s probably a lot of like-minded people in here that are Redskins fans as well, and if they can’t get a championship with the Redskins, you know they’re going to be happy with the Capitals winning tonight.” – DS
Clutch DSP: Devante Smith-Pelly, who arrived in Washington with a reputation for playoff success, has 40 goals in 341 career regular season games. He now has 12 goals in 47 career playoff game. That’s … a lot. — DS
Look at the crowd: It would appear that most of metropolitan Washington is currently outside Capital One Arena.
That was unexpected: The Golden Knights did everything you’d want but couldn’t buy a goal in the first period. Vegas held an 8-to-3 scoring-chance advantage at 5-on-5, including a 4-to-2 edge on high-danger chances, those attempts in the slot and the crease, but still trails Washington 3-0 on the scoreboard.
Part of the problem may be the continued dormancy of the Knights’ top line. Cody Eakin, a former third-round draft pick in Washington in 2009, leads the team with two of those high-danger chances. Alex Tuch and Erik Huala have the others. That means the Golden Knights top line of Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson have zero. – NG
End Period 1: Capitals 3, Golden Knights 0
For the first time in four games in these Stanley Cup finals, the Capitals and Golden Knights are not tied at the first intermission. Thanks to a couple of fortunate bounces off the post early in the period and goals from T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly, Capital One Arena is rocking, and Washington will take a 3-0 lead into the second period. – SA
Make it 3-0: There goes that playoff goal-scorer again. With 20 seconds remaining in the first period, Devante Smith-Pelly roofed a shot past Marc-Andre Fleury to give the Capitals a 3-0 lead. Washington has three goals on its last seven shots and Smith-Pelly now has six goals in the postseason, one shy of his total in 75 regular season games. – SA
A two-goal cushion for the Caps: Off a faceoff in the Vegas zone, Tom Wilson wristed a shot over Marc-Andre Fleury’s glove for a 2-0 lead with 3:34 remaining in the first. Wilson’s fifth goal of the playoffs came off a pretty pass from the side of the net by Evgeny Kuznetsov. Alex Ovechkin was credited with the secondary assist. – SA
Metro gets national love: There was a time when D.C.’s Metro was considered a regional gem. Seriously. The run of bad news and ugly headlines has been sad to anyone who loves this area, so to see the Capitals simultaneously breathing life into the region’s sports fans and its, uh, mass transit lovers is rather remarkable. The pre-game transportation exploits of Matt Niskanen and T.J. Oshie got plenty of love during NBC’s broadcast. What can’t this team do? – DS
Pretty even: With less than five minutes to play in the first period, Vegas has an 8-7 advantage in shots, but the Capitals have the night’s only goal. The teams have been tied after 20 minutes in every game this series. Will that trend continue? – SA
Puck … luck?: This has been said 20 times before, but it’s worth saying 20 more times: The nightmares of so many past Capitals playoffs just keep slipping away. How many times have we seen the Capitals dominate play, ring a shot off a post with an open net, and then give up a backbreaking power-play goal in the other direction? So many times this spring, it’s been the Capitals dodging bullets, the Capitals capitalizing on chances, and the other side shaking its collective head in disbelief. (Can you have a collective head? Sounds weird.) – DS
Caps on top: T.J. Oshie, who took Metro to the game, gave Washington a 1-0 lead with 10:06 to play in the first period after kicking a rebound off a shot by Evgeny Kuznetsov onto his stick and lifting the puck over Marc-Andre Fleury’s left pad. All but two of Oshie’s goals during the postseason have come on the power play. The Capitals are 11-4 when scoring first in the playoffs. – SA
Caps to the power play: With 10:42 to play in a fast-paced first period, Vegas has a 5-2 edge in shots on goal. Washington will have a prime opportunity to cut into that deficit after Colin Miller was sent to the penalty box for tripping Lars Eller in the neutral zone. The Capitals are 1 for 7 with the man advantage in the series, including 0 for 4 in Game 3. – SA
It’s a madhouse: Washington’s reputation as a big-event town won’t take any hits after this game. From the wild scene outside the arena to the roaring crowd during the pre-game ceremonies to the deafening howls as the Capitals weathered the first Vegas push, this felt like a night 20 years in the making. Good news for all those folks who spent thousands of dollars on tickets. – DS
But…how?: The Golden Knights went on the power play four minutes into the first period after John Carlson was sent off for tripping. Vegas appeared poised to take an early lead with the man advantage, but James Neal’s shot toward a wide-open net somehow deflected off the far post and out, and the Capitals killed off the penalty. – SA
An early ping: Vegas, which only had 22 shots on goal on Saturday, had the first two good chances of Game 4. Alex Tuch hit the post a little more than a minute into the opening frame, and two minutes later, Reilly Smith’s shot hit the outside of the net off a feed from William Karlsson. – SA
Fans of the Game: Nationals teammates Max Scherzer and Ryan Zimmerman led the “Let’s Go Caps!” chant before Game 4, and and they did so while wearing Capitals jerseys, gloves and helmets, and holding hockey sticks. They looked ridiculous(ly) awesome. – SA
Peak fares are no joke: T.J. Oshie is on the ice for pregame warmups and Capitals fans can thank the generosity of a WMATA employee for that. Oshie and teammate Matt Niskanen took Metro to Capital One Arena for the second consecutive game, but Oshie, a Metro newbie, was 35 cents short on his exit fare upon arriving at Gallery Place. “I owe you,” Oshie — he of the $46 million contract — said after he was allowed through the gate without paying the difference. – SA
#VegasBorn Bryce Harper is in the house: “We’re going to look to go to Game 4 in D.C. next Monday night,” Nationals outfielder and Las Vegas native Bryce Harper told NHL Network last week. “Hopefully we can get there and I’ll definitely be in the No. 81 Marchessault jersey. I have an away white, so looking forward to that.” As promised, with the Nationals off ahead of a two-game series at Nationals Park against the Tampa Bay Rays, Harper was at Capital One Arena and repping the Vegas Golden Knights for Game 4 on Monday. I, for one, am looking forward to the reaction he gets should the Capitals decide to show him on the video board. (Here’s guessing it only happens if Washington is leading by at least a couple of goal late.) – SA
Washington’s D must keep Vegas far away from Braden Holtby: Holtby’s playoff save percentage is a robust .922 but his save rate against shot attempts in the slot and the crease is woefully low, especially in comparison to the three earlier rounds. Leading up to the Stanley Cup finals, Holtby had a .917 save rate against high-danger chances at even strength, yet he has fended off just 22 of the 28 high-danger chances faced in the series against the Golden Knights at 5-on-5. Four of those six goals against have come on his glove side, perhaps an indication the Knights are keying in on a weakness in Holtby’s game.
The Caps’ top guns are firing: Washington’s top line of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Tom Wilson have been very effective in the Stanley Cup finals. That trio has outscored Vegas 2-0 at even strength with an 11-to-5 edge in high-danger chances, those shot attempts from the slot and the crease, in just 28 minutes of ice time.
The Golden Knights’ top line of Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith and William Karlsson, meanwhile, have scored two goals in 40 minutes while also allowing two. Plus, they are facing a 6-to-7 deficit in high-danger chances against Washington’s defenders. — NG
Prime time fourth line: Secondary scoring has been key to Washington’s run to the Stanley Cup finals, and Devante Smith-Pelly is at the center of the productive surge. The 25-year-old journeyman scored seven goals during the regular season yet has five goals already in the playoffs, including an insurance tally against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3.
If there is any concern about his postseason production, it is this: it is not accompanied by an increase in shot volume or shot quality. For example, Smith-Pelly scored his seven regular-season goals on 102 shots, giving him a shooting rate of 6.9 percent. In the playoffs he is 5 for 22 (22.7 percent). Puck luck like that doesn’t sustain itself for very long, but Washington only needs him to be as fortunate for another couple of games. — NG