The Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals have the opportunity to create valuable separation in their respective Game 4s of the 2018 NHL conference finals.
The Golden Knights edged ahead of the Winnipeg Jets by way of a tremendous Game 3 performance from goalie Marc-Andre Fleury on Wednesday, and with another home game ahead, the expansion side could move to within one win of the Stanley Cup Final.
Washington needs to rebound from a Game 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Final.
In order to keep the Lightning from gaining all the momentum in the series before it heads back to Amalie Arena, the Capitals must correct the mistakes they committed on home ice Tuesday.
Western Conference Final
Game 3: Vegas 4, Winnipeg 2 (Vegas leads series 2-1)
Eastern Conference Final
Game 3: Tampa Bay 4, Washington 2 (Washington leads series 2-1)
Tampa Bay Rides Momentum from Game 3 Victory
The Lightning finally showed signs of life in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final, and all of a sudden, there's a glimmer of hope they can take two games from the Capitals on the road.
Jon Cooper's team benefited from more production on the power play Tuesday, as the first two shots that beat Washington goalie Braden Holtby came while the Lightning held a man advantage.
Center Steven Stamkos and right-winger Nikita Kucherov scored on the power play, while defenseman Victor Hedman followed them up with an even-strength tally to extend the lead to three goals.
In addition to thriving on their own power play, the Lightning shut down the Capitals with their penalty kill, as they held Washington scoreless on four man-advantage situations.
With more on the line in every game left on the schedule, Stamkos is aware his team must take advantage of special teams on every occasion, per Bryan Burns of the team's official website.
"Special teams are just going to get more and more under the microscope," Stamkos said. "You probably get [fewer and fewer] chances as the playoffs go on. We've seen that trend. You want to take advantage, and we took advantage of the special teams yesterday."
The goal for Washington in Game 4 is to not commit early penalties that could result in Tampa Bay goals, as is what happened in Game 3.
As long as the Capitals avoid silly penalties and put pressure on the net similar to Games 1 and 2, they should have a chance to re-establish dominance in the series.
However, it's hard to deny the momentum Tampa Bay carries into Game 4—and the experience gained from four playoff road wins over three series.
The Lightning won't be intimidated by the atmosphere inside Capital One Arena, which should lead to quite a few confident first-period shifts in which Stamkos and Co. score and put the pressure on the home side.
Fleury Continues to Be Difference-Maker for Vegas
Fleury was the reason the Golden Knights captured Game 3 on home ice Wednesday.
The three-time Stanley Cup champion stopped 30 of the 32 shots fired in his direction, and some of the saves left everyone in amazement over how he made them, including NBC Sports' Jeremy Roenick:
Fleury's third-period performance included back-to-back marvelous saves that preserved Vegas' one-goal lead.
The NHL on NBC's Twitter account captured the pair of key denials:
As the goalie with the most experience left in the postseason, Fleury is expected to turn in showings like he did in Game 3, and the extra confidence earned from Wednesday's display should help him in Friday's Game 4.
Although Fleury thrived between the pipes, the other Vegas players left their fans wanting more following a third period that featured an extended shot drought.
With Winnipeg motivated by its ability to create scoring chances, the Golden Knights must find a way to answer the Jets if Fleury concedes a goal or two.
If Vegas' offense comes alive in Game 4, Fleury's margin of error is a bit higher, which means the concession of a single goal won't hurt his team's chances of winning.
What we should expect is another tremendous third-period showing from the former Pittsburgh Penguins goalie, which will set up a clinching scenario in Winnipeg for Game 5.
Follow Joe on Twitter, @JTansey90.