Golden Knights withstand late Capitals onslaught to win playoff-type battle

Posted Tuesday, 18 February 2020 ‐ Las Vegas Sun

All year the Golden Knights had been on the outside of great looking in. The advanced stats and numbers identifying an elite team can only go so far. Sometimes you have to go out and win a game against one of the league's best. That’s what they did against the Washington Capitals on Monday. It was the kind of win that good teams get. The Golden Knights took a three-goal lead into the third period, but against the Capitals, something was coming. They swallowed one T.J. Oshie goal, then a second, then a furious onslaught at the end of the game. But they never broke. The Golden Knights polished off a 3-2 win against the 2018 Stanley Cup champions at T-Mobile Arena, four days after they did the same to the 2019 champions. Vegas is playing playoff hockey, and the win over the Capitals was a data point that this team is taking the next step to becoming a true postseason contender.  “I think we’re just good all-around right now and it’s been a real treat to be a part of,” forward Jonathan Marchessault said. “We were expecting a push from them and they’re an amazing team, but overall I think we played well. And at the end of the night, good teams find a way to win and that’s what we did.”  The Golden Knights like to talk a lot about playing their own game, and when they do what they want to do, they’re tough to beat. The first two periods were proof of that. Through 40 minutes the Golden Knights led 3-0 thanks to goals from Nick Holden, Reilly Smith and Max Pacioretty. They jumped out to the lead and suffocated Washington in the second period, allowing just six shots and one high-danger chance. They held star Alex Ovechkin to just four shot attempts one game after he had 17, and without taking a penalty. Against the Capitals, though, gliding through all 60 minutes just isn’t going to happen. In the third period Oshie scored at 8:47 and on the power play at 10:40. All the momentum shifted to the visitor’s bench and the Golden Knights were in a position they had been too many times before — holding a big lead at home and in danger of it slipping away. This time, though, they held on. They endured 22 third-period shot attempts, more than Vegas had in any period. They held on despite only four shot attempts of their own while defending 5-on-6 at the end. They stood firm against one of the best offenses in the league. “Sometimes when you have a lead like that and it seems like it’s slipping away, you tighten up a little bit, but that’s not what we’re trying to do,” Smith said. “That team’s going to score. You just have to try outscore them and try to limit them the best you can.” The game was also exemplified what coach Peter DeBoer calls his “non-negotiables.” He wants Vegas winning the battles in front of the net. Vegas had 17 shots and three goals come from below the faceoff dots and between the circles. Washington had nine shots and zero goals from there. “I think you look at the offense we created tonight, it was all in close, around the net,” DeBoer said. “I think we’re going to those dirty areas of the rink, the harder areas of the rink better and we’re defending our net better, which gives us a chance to win every night.” It was also another strong outing from Marc-Andre Fleury, who turned away 24 of the Capitals’ 26 shots coming off a shutout of the Islanders on Saturday. Just as important to him, Ovechkin didn’t score. Ovechkin has scored 24 of his career 698 goals against Fleury, tied for the most against any goalie.  Ovechkin was two goals away from becoming the eighth player to reach 700 in his career, and the game was played under that cloud with the crowd cheering a little louder for all five of Fleury’s saves on Ovechkin. Fleury didn’t want him to get to 700 here too and be another part of history with his rival. “By the time the pass gets to him, you have time to think, ‘Oh not today, not today, I got this guy,’” Fleury said. “I’m sure he’ll get it soon and I’m just happy I’m not going to be the goalie on 'SportsCenter' 48 times showing that goal.” Vegas has started a five-game homestand with three wins, all against playoff teams and against two recent Stanley Cup winners. Before this stretch, Vegas was 6-11-2 against playoff teams outside its division, including one win in four games against the Blues, Islanders and Capitals. Then the Golden Knights beat all three of them, all by one goal and all by playing their best at the end of the game. That’s playoff hockey, and that’s what the Golden Knights are playing right now. “That’s the measuring stick and we’ve had a bunch of them here this week and we’ve got another one coming in on Thursday with Tampa (Bay),” DeBoer said. “Every night you go in and you’re seeing the best teams in the league, and I think our group is embracing that and hopefully building confidence with every time we win a game against a real good team. “I'm going to leave here, have a beer and relax for a couple of hours and then we’ll look at the game tomorrow morning and start concentrating on the week ahead.”

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