VEGAS’ 4TH LINE TERRORIZES CAPS, VGK TAKE A 1-0 SERIES LEAD
By: Ryan A. Skinner
Just as everyone expected, game 1 of the Stanley cup final was a spectacle, on and off the ice. Starting with a free Lil’ Jon concert outside in the 90° heat and ending with 3 unanswered goals from the Vegas 4th line to close the game at a whopping 6-4 margin.
Everything was rocking early, the lights, the music, the pregame show of an actual Trebuchet launching a stone at an army of cloaked men in Caps’ colors, annihilating all but the one who would face the Golden knight alone at center ice. In true Vegas style, no expense was spared when it came to the spectacle and wow factor (it helps of course, when your one ice entertainment director once put together the show for the WWE). Then, to get the crowd REALLY going, Michael Buffer, the famed Boxing PA announcer, introduced the starting lineups. A more Vegas thing has never vegased in Las Vegas.
And then, the game started.
What began as a feeling out period ended abruptly when Capital forward, Andre Burakovsky launched Cody Eakin into the boards from behind resulting in a 2 minute Boarding minor. Vegas Power Play started off slow but eventually a stellar screen in front of Caps netminder, Braden Holtby from Vegas forward Erik Haula in combination with a hard slap shot from the point by Vegas Defenseman Colin Miller ended the tie 7:15 into the first Period.
The lead would not last, and the beginnings of what seemed a lethargic defensive effort from the Sbisa-Miller D pair lead to two beautiful goals for the Caps within 42 seconds of each-other, first a masterful tip in of a rolling puck by Brett Connolly and then a backhanded tap in from Nicklas Backstrom off a wrap around pass from American Hero, T.J. Oshie.
The knights’ powerful forecheck would come to bear for the first time of the game when William Karlsson picked up a wide shot from Reilly Smith off the boards and sneaked the loose change behind Holtby, The 1st Period of Play would end tied at 2 a piece.
The second period saw Vegas get off and running early once again with a goal from Reilly Smith 3:21 into the period, but Washington answered with an absolute passing clinic from T.J. Oshie across the slot to a wide open John Carlson who made no mistakes on a beautiful backhand to a wide open net. It’s possible that Vegas Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury never even saw the pass from Oshie to Carlson because he was BADLY, uncharacteristically out of position here. The theme of a vulnerable Fleury would come to fruition one more time in this game and this is certainly the most average performance of his playoffs so far.
Within 2 minutes of the start of the 3rd period, the average, not spectacular Fleury showed his face as Tom Wilson redirected a weak shot on the Vegas Goaltender, who lost track of the puck and ended up kicking it into his own net with the back of his skate. It was at this point in the game that the refs lost any control that they may have had over the game, and the ugly truth of the NHL’s mediocre officiating in playoff situations bared its head. Following their form throughout the playoffs, Vegas answered relatively quickly to the Wilson tally. Ryan Reaves found himself completely open in front of Braden Holtby. How was he so open in the crease you ask? was it a Washington defensive breakdown like on the Reilly Smith goal in the second period? no. Reaves was wide open because he Cross Checked Washington Defender, John Carlson to the ice. (click on the “Cross Checked” hyperlink and watch at 10 seconds in front of Holtby’s crease) This obvious infraction, which was not called, leads seconds later to Reaves’ goal.
Obviously, the Caps were upset about this and rightfully so, so it is perhaps this event that Tom Wilson had in his head as he steamrolled the 5’9″ Jonathan Marchessault from his blind side well after Marchessault had passed the puck on. Wilson took 3 full strides at Marchessault after he no longer had possession of the puck and sent him to the locker room for concussion protocol (Marchessault would return). I will more than likely do another piece on this hit and others of his in the near future, suffice to say, Wilson is given a 2 minute minor for interference when it clearly should have been a major, while David Perron was assessed a 2 minute minor alongside Wilson for a cross check on Alex Ovechkin, creating a 4 on 4 situation. As the 3rd period rolled on, Vegas’ 4th Line edge showed more and more. Tomas Nosek scored twice unanswered after the Reaves goal, once on an Empty netter to seal the deal after he laid out to block a pass from Alex Ovechkin.
I am of course as a Vegas fan exceptionally happy with the result, but I have a nagging feeling that should Vegas win this series, the Vegas Haters will have more ammo for their hate of this franchise and more “Evidence” to point at for their tin hat theories about the league wanting Vegas to win. This was a great win which has now been marred by a bad no call and a bad hit. Reaves will keep doing what he does, and Wilson, since his hit on Marchessault was dirty, but not suspension worthy, will keep doing what he does and we will have a VERY interesting series. The Caps aren’t dead yet, its only game one, People!
Whats next on the site:
-Tom Wilson: Serial Offender
-The State of NHL Playoff Officiating
-Bottle Rocket Podcast #2 (Saturday)