Capitals down Golden Knights to grab 3-1 lead in Stanley Cup final

Capitals 6 Golden Knights 2

(Washington leads series 3-1)

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly scored in the final 10 minutes of the first period after Vegas hit two early posts as the Washington Capitals defeated the expansion Golden Knights 6-2 on Monday to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup final.

John Carlson, Michal Kempny and Brett Connolly had the other goals for Washington. Braden Holtby made 28 saves for the Capitals, who can wrap up their first title when the series shifts to Vegas for Game 5 on Thursday.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, the NHL’s leading scorer in the playoffs with 31 points, added four assists. Oshie added a pair of assists while Nicklas Backstrom had three.

James Neal and Reilly Smith replied for Vegas, which got 17 stops from Marc-Andre Fleury. The Knights won the opener of the best-of-seven series, but have now lost three straight for the first time since late November and early December.

Game 6, if necessary, would be back in Washington on Sunday night. The only team in NHL history to come back from a 3-1 deficit in a final to hoist the Cup was the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, who won four straight after losing the first three games to the Detroit Red Wings.

After the Capitals weathered a Vegas push thanks to some good luck, along with poor execution from the visitors, Oshie made it 1-0 at 9:54 of the first on the power play after Knights defenceman Colin Miller went off for tripping.

Fleury stopped Kuznetsov’s initial shot, but the puck spilled to Oshie, who kicked it from his skate to his stick at the lip of the crease before burying his eighth goal of the post-season.

Wilson made it 2-0 with 3:34 left in the period when he intercepted a pass by Vegas defenceman Deryk Engelland after an offensive zone draw and worked a slick give-and-go with Kuznetsov to beat Fleury for his fifth.

Smith-Pelly stretched the lead to three with 20.5 seconds left on the clock, like Oshie kicking the puck from his skate to his stick before roofing his sixth off a hard feed from Alex Ovechkin, who had hit the post earlier in the period with the teams scoreless.

Prior to the Washington onslaught, Vegas easily could have scored three times, but instead rolled snake eyes at the worst moment imaginable.

Erik Haula had the puck go off his skate and hit the post just over a minute in, Smith flubbed a shot at a wide-open net, and Neal also found iron on the most egregious miss of all with Holtby down and out on a power play before the Capitals exploded.

The Knights got a power play early in the second, but were unable to find a way past Holtby, and found iron twice more as the period wore on.

Brayden McNabb’s floater from the point hit the post before Ryan Carpenter chimed one off the crossbar on the follow up as Vegas failed to connect on another man advantage despite some sustained pressure.

Holtby took a big slash from Neal later in the second, and Washington made Vegas pay when Carlson blasted his fifth beyond Fleury’s glove with 4:37 remaining to make it 4-0 on only the Capitals’ 14th shot.

The Knights trailed big on the scoreboard through 40 minutes, but led 50-25 in shot attempts on a frustrating evening where next to nothing went their way.

Neal finally broke Holtby’s shutout bid at 5:43 of the third when he fired a shot upstairs at the side of the net for his sixth just as a Washington penalty expired.

Smith made it 4-2 at 12:26 with his fourth when the Capitals couldn’t clear their zone, but Kempny put any thought of a comeback to bed just 1:13 later when he finished off a nice feed from Backstrom for his second after delivering a thunderous reverse hit on Miller.

Connolly added another power-play goal for Washington at 18:51.

Notes: Vegas made one change to its lineup in Game 4 as winger Tomas Tatar drew in for David Perron. … Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer and infielder Ryan Zimmerman were in attendance supporting the Capitals, while teammate and Vegas native Bryce Harper watched from a private box sporting a Jonathan Marchessault jersey. … Humboldt Broncos forward Kaleb Dahlgren was also in attendance. He got a great ovation from the crowd when lifted his Broncos jersey to reveal a Capitals sweater.

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