Eller shines, Holtby provides rescue as Capitals even Stanley Cup Final

·Editor

The Washington Capitals pulled even with the Vegas Golden Knights after a gutsy 3-2 road win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday.

Lars Eller played the role of hero for the Capitals with a three-point night. The 29-year old tied the game 10 minutes after James Neal opened the scoring for Vegas, finishing a nifty passing sequence for his sixth of the playoffs. Eller added the primary assists on Washington’s final two tallies from Alex Ovechkin and Brooks Orpik, respectively, to put the bow on top of arguably the best game of his NHL career.

Orpik’s second-period goal, a seeing-eye shot that found its way past Fleury, held up as the winner, and was the blue-liner’s first goal of any kind, regular season or playoffs, since February 2016 — a streak spanning 220 games and one that dates back to several months before Vegas was even awarded an NHL franchise.

But, the result could have been a whole different story were it not for goaltender Braden Holtby, who made an absolutely incredible paddle save on Alex Tuch in the dying moments to preserve the W.

Alex Ovechkin found the twine for the first Stanley Cup Final goal of his career, while Michal Kempny, Andre Burakovsky (2) and Nick Backstrom added helpers for Washington. Neal and Shea Theodore tallied for the Golden Knights, with Reilly Smith, William Karlsson, Luca Sbisa and Colin Miller recording assists.

Eller was the offensive juggernaut for the Capitals in Game 2, but Holtby was the star in stopping 37 of 39 shots he faced with many — including that save-of-the-season candidate near the end of the game — of the dangerous variety. Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, put in his second straight mediocre performance, turning aside 23 of 26 biscuits the Capitals threw his way.

Aside from outshooting Washington by 13, Vegas also held a heavy (6:27 to 4:32) edge in offensive zone possession time. Slot shots were 13-12 in favour of the Golden Knights, while the Capitals had a 19-18 advantage in scoring chances. Washington is now 9-3 away from home this postseason.

It wasn’t all gravy for the Caps, however, as the team lost first-line centre and potent power-play threat Evgeny Kuznetsov to an upper-body injury, which appeared to be a hand or wrist issue, in the first period after taking a hit along the boards from Brayden McNabb.

It was the Capitals’ first ever win in a Stanley Cup Final series, as the team was swept by Detroit in its only other appearance in 1998. The clubs now have a two-day layoff before the puck drops for Game 3 in Washington on Saturday night.

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