If Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final was a preview for the entire series to come, we are in for a treat. Before puck drop, Vegas went FULL Vegas. On top of their normal pregame performances, this one featured a performer being lowered from the rafters to the ice and Michael Buffer in the house to announce the starting lineups.
After all the pageantry there was a fantastic game. Game 1 featured four lead changes, the most in any Stanley Cup Final game in NHL history. Both teams’ offenses came out firing on all cylinders despite coming off of lengthy rests.
The Golden Knights kicked off scoring seven minutes into the game when Colin Miller got on the board with a power play goal. But the Caps responded quickly with two goals of their own in a one minute span, just seven minutes later. The first came when Brett Connolly redirected a Michal Kempny shot past Marc-Andre Fleury. The second was a rebound scored by Nicklas Backstrom off of a T.J. Oshie wraparound attempt.
But the Knights fought back when William Karlsson tied the game off a rebound of his own. Karlsson picked off a blocked shot from behind the net, quickly moved the puck in front of the goal line and squeezed it between the post and Braden Holtby’s skate.
All night Holtby struggled with rebound control. He had multiple shots ricochet off of his pads and onto a Vegas player’s stick. This was an issue for Holtby in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, but Tampa Bay could not make them pay. Last night, Vegas scored two goals from bad rebounds.
The teams traded goals in the second period and came into the final third tied at three. The period opened with another patented Caps fast start. Tom Wilson drove to the net and tipped a shot from Alex Ovechkin past Fleury, who made the initial save but lost the puck and kicked it into his own net. But the pesky Knights forced yet another tie, this one created by sudden goal-scoring revelation Ryan Reaves, who after crosschecking John Carlsson down to the ice collected the puck in front of the net and scored top shelf.
After that missed call, the refs missed another call, this one a hit from Tom Wilson that may also come with more supplemental discipline. Wilson hit Jonathan Marchessault well after the forward moved the puck. The hit was late, was blind-sighted, and Wilson skated cross-ice to deliver it. The play was eventually made into coincident minors with a cross-checking call to David Perron who was entangled with Ovechkin at the same time.
Tom Wilson….you can’t do that pic.twitter.com/HF4mORSowc— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 29, 2018
Vegas finally took the lead for good with a goal from Tomas Nosek, who buried a cross-ice pass from Shea Theodore with ten minutes left. Nosek also scored the empty-net goal to seal the game for Vegas.
This is the type of game that the Caps would typically be expected to win with their superior goal scoring talent, especially with one being a Fleury own goal. But the missed Reaves cross-check changed the complexion of the game and allowed the Knights to steal Game 1, putting them in a position where over 70% of teams have won the Cup.
Game 2 is back at T-Mobile Arena on Wednesday night.