Eller, Holtby lead the way as Capitals down Knights to even Cup final 1-1

Washington 3 Las Vegas 2

LAS VEGAS — Lars Eller had a goal and two assists, Braden Holtby made 37 saves, and the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 to even the Stanley Cup final 1-1 on Wednesday night.

Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Orpik also scored for the Capitals, while Andre Burakovsky added two assists. It was Orpik’s first goal in 220 games.

James Neal and Shea Theodore replied for the expansion Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots in taking the loss.

The best-of-seven series now switches to Washington for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday.

Game 5 will be back in Vegas next Thursday.

With temperatures soaring as high as 37 C in the hours leading up to the late-afternoon puck drop at T-Mobile Arena, the Capitals put in a much better effort on the heels of a sloppy performance from both teams in Monday’s chaotic opener.

After killing off a penalty early in the second period, Washington pushed ahead on a power play of its own at 5:38 when Ovechkin scored his 13th goal of the playoffs from a tight angle thanks to Eller’s slick cross-ice pass.

Eller then set up Orpik, who didn’t have a goal in the regular season and last scored in the playoffs all the way back in April 2014, on a shot that struck the leg of Vegas forward Cody Eakin and bounced past Fleury at 9:41 to make it 3-1.

The Knights entered Monday with a 7-1 home record in the playoffs — outscoring opponents by 31-16 in the process — and got back to within one with 2:13 left when Theodore’s seeing-eye snapshot from the point on a power play found its way through traffic with T.J. Oshie in the box for ill-advised cross-checking penalty.

Vegas got a 5-on-3 power play for 1:09 when Tom Wilson took an interference penalty and Eller was whistled for hooking early in the third, but Holtby, who allowed five goals on 33 shots in Game 1 after posting back-to-back shutouts to close out the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference final, managed to hold the fort.

Holtby made one of his biggest saves of the night with just under two minutes left to play, diving to his right, stopping Alex Tuch’s point-blank shot with his stick to keep the score 3-2.

“That was huge. I was backchecking. I’m three feet too late,” said Caps forward Jay Beagle. ”You see that kind of develop in your mind, you’re thinking there’s no way that bounces to them across crease and then comes back across. Holts just makes the save of the year. Maybe the save of a lifetime. It’s unreal.

“He’s our rock back there.”

The Knights continued to push pulling Fleury for an extra attacker, but Holtby and the Capitals kept them off the scoreboard.

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