If you are a Washington Capitals fan who lives in D.C., then there's a slim chance that you're still celebrating the team's massive 3-1 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday night. The city came alive following the win, and it's not too difficult to figure out why.
It's the first time in the history of the organization that the Capitals have actually led a Stanley Cup Final. They've been to the dance once before, but that was in 1998, and they didn't fare well.
That changed on Saturday night, however, and suddenly Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Braden Holtby and the rest of the Capitals are just two wins away from winning hockey's ultimate prize.
Last season was supposed to have been Washington's best chance of securing a Stanley Cup during the Ovechkin era, but the team came up short once again, which led the captain to tell gathered media back in September that "we're not gonna be suck this year."
That has certainly been the case in 2017-18, and while the Capitals may not have quite as much depth as they have had in seasons gone by, something about the squad just feels a bit different. That is why they are just two games away from winning the toughest tournament in sports.
Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Schedule
When: Monday, June 4, at 8 p.m. ET
Television: NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS
Stream: Hulu, NBC Sports Live, NBC Sports App
Updated Odds for Game 4
Odds appear courtesy of OddsShark and are accurate as of midnight ET on June 3.
What to Watch for in Game 4
Capitals Are Finally Protecting the House
After Game 1 in Las Vegas, it was clear that Washington needed to do a better job of protecting "the house," or, as we like to call it, the high-danger scoring area in front of Holtby. The Golden Knights scored six times and managed 14 high-danger chances for in all situations in that game, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Considering the fact that they were credited with 26 blocked shots in Game 3, it's evident that the Capitals were doing everything they could to protect Holtby and his crease. Vegas still generated plenty of scoring chance, but the shots that did get through weren't from particularly dangerous areas of the ice.
If the Capitals defense can continue to push the Golden Knights to the fringes of the offensive zone, then it has a great chance of skating away with a 3-1 lead on Monday night.
Golden Knights Will Start Hot Off the Blocks
It's become a staple of Vegas' surprising, shock-and-awe sort of offense. While the Knights don't have the most talented or loaded lineup, they come at the opposition in waves. And the Gerard Gallant-coached group almost never starts a game slowly.
The Golden Knights want to play with a lead, and they want to secure that first goal as early as possible. Every NHL team wants that 1-0 lead, of course, but Vegas burns a ton of energy in the early stages of the first period while trying to secure the advantage.
Game 3 was the first time in the series where it didn't seem like Washington was fighting from underneath right from the outset. While the Caps may have stolen Game 2 on the road, they showed up to play in their first home Stanley Cup Final game in 20 years.
Maybe it was the crowd. Perhaps the idea of needing just a few more wins to secure Stanley Cup rings propelled the squad forward. Whatever it was, Vegas wasn't able to apply as much pressure early. And that made all the difference in the outcome.