If Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final turns out anything like Game 3, then we are all in for a real treat. There were no goals in the first period, but the atmosphere inside Capital One Arena was nothing short of electric as the hometown Washington Capitals relentlessly pressed.
The tension in the air was palpable as the second frame began. An early scramble in front of the Vegas Golden Knights' net led to an Alex Ovechkin goal—who else would it be?—and the packed house came unglued in response.
The Great Eight tied a franchise record for most goals scored in a single playoff run with his 14th, and you can't help but feel he will be surpassing John Druce's longstanding mark before the end of this postseason. Just look at that effort:
Vegas tried not to fade down the stretch despite trailing 2-0 entering the third period. Tomas Nosek notched his third goal of the series to cut the deficit to one, but a timely tally from Devante Smith-Pelly sealed the deal for the Capitals.
The final score read 3-1, but the result was never in doubt on Saturday evening. Vegas only managed to find the back of the net because of a Braden Holtby blunder as he tried to stick-handle behind the goal.
Washington holds a 2-1 lead in the series and has the Golden Knights in quite the predicament as we approach Game 4. Losing that contest would all but squash Vegas' Stanley Cup hopes, as teams that carry a 3-1 lead entering Game 5 on the road have only lost the series 8.2 percent of the time in history.
Counting Vegas out would be a mistake, but the Capitals looked much better in Game 3 then they did toward the end of Game 2. Marc-Andre Fleury wasn't able to maintain an all-situations save percentage above .900 for the third straight outing, and that's bad news for the Cinderella Golden Knights.
Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Schedule
When: Monday, June 4 at 8 p.m. ET
Television: NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
Updated Odds for Game 4
Vegas: +135 (wager $100 to win $135)
Washington: -177 (wager $177 to win $100)
Odds appear courtesy of OddsShark and are accurate as of 12 a.m. on June 3
Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Predictions
Alex Ovechkin Continues to Astonish
Unless your favorite team is in the Metropolitan Division, odds are pretty good that you can at least respect Ovechkin for what he does whenever he's out on the ice. And what he does is score goals—by the boatload.
Maybe that makes him one-dimensional in the eyes of some, but there's no denying he's been everything the Capitals have needed him to be during this playoff run. After scoring the opening tally in Game 3, Ovechkin leads the postseason in goals scored with 14.
No forward left standing in the playoffs is averaging more time on ice than him (20:47), he has generated a ton of offensive opportunities and is still an unstoppable Incredible Hulk-esque finisher on the power play.
Simply put: Ovechkin has been playing for the opportunity to win the Stanley Cup since 2005. Don't expect him to slow down now.
Marc-Andre Fleury Manages to Keep Things Close
Entering the Stanley Cup Final, Fleury appeared poised to propel the Golden Knights to a series victory all on his own. He was dominant through the first three rounds and had emerged as a potential problem for the Capitals.
Washington has made Fleury look very human in the first three games of this series, however.
He's allowed 10 goals on the 80 shots he's faced against the Caps, which matches the number of markers he gave up across all five games of the Western Conference Final combined. The Flower doesn't wilt easily, and the Capitals aren't going to get into his head. Still, Fleury has been Vegas' best player in the postseason, and he needs to come up with a classic in Game 4.
Even if he doesn't put on a clinic, look for him to rebound and make things a bit more difficult for Washington's top players. It's not like the first goal he gave up was a fluke, although he would probably like the Evgeny Kuznetsov and Smith-Pelly tallies back.
Capitals Come Out on Top and Earn a Chance to Win in Vegas
Perhaps we will get to see a Stanley Cup celebration in Las Vegas, even if it isn't the Golden Knights who are hoisting the trophy. How absurd would it be for Ovechkin and Co. to finally seal the deal in Sin City? After everything he's been through with the organization, one could only imagine the parties that would be going down on the strip.
Washington fed off of the home-ice advantage in Game 3 and managed to pull to .500 in the confines of their own rink in these playoffs. Caps fans will give their team even more energy to feed off of come Monday night, and the series will continue to shift in Washington's favor.
Vegas will put up a fight, much like it has all season long, but this is when the Capitals' depth and Holtby's brilliance will become difference-makers.