GameChangers: Game 1 Stanley Cup Final

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    In the game of hockey, the winner is decided by a simple concept, most goals at the end of sixty minutes (or more, if needed) wins the game. There are certain points within games that lead up to these goals. Even the smallest bounce of the puck or half second checking effort can contribute to a goal for a team.

    In the most important of games, these small, seemingly innocuous plays may lead to a goal, a game winner, and a Stanley Cup winner. Today we will take a look at some of the plays that ultimately decided Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between the Washington Capitals and expansion Vegas Golden Knights.

    VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS GOAL #1

    Around the 5:23 mark of the 1st period, with Capitals winger Brett Connolly driving around behind the net, he comes down hard on the stick of Vegas defenseman Colin Miller, knocking it out of his hands. Wes Mcauly, one of the referees for this Game 1 does not call a slashing penalty. Play continues as this allows Washington to continue pouring on pressure in the Vegas end. Capitals winger Andre Burakovsky comes in against Vegas center Cody Eakin, pushing him square in the back into the boards, drawing a boarding penalty. With the face-off now switching ends, the Vegas power play gets to work. After a few successful clearing attempts by Washington, Colin Miller is finally able to get a shot off on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby. As Holtby is leaning to his right to see around a screen set by his own defenseman John Carlson, the shot comes to his left and into the net to give Vegas the all important first goal.

    VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS GOAL #2

    After heavy pressure from Vegas in the Washington zone, Washington ices the puck. While Washington is able to get the puck out of the zone to make changes, only the forward group was able to get off. Vegas quickly turned the puck back up ice and beats the Washington forwards, making them unable to perform their defensive assignments. Vegas winger Reilly Smith is able to get a clear shot toward the net, however it is deflected in front and rebounds hard off the end wall. With the forwards late getting back, both Washington defensemen Matt Niskanen and John Carlson are taken out of position, allowing Vegas winger William Karlsson to take the rebound of the boards and stuff it in before Holtby can get back to that side of the net. Capitals center Lars Eller is eventually able to get back in the play but does not sufficiently defend the net mouth, allowing Karlsson to jam in that rebound to tie the game at 2.

    VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS GOAL #3

    Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland joins the rush and sends a wrist shot towards the net. Fleury makes the save but Engelland continues to drive behind the net. With Engelland driving the net it takes Capitals defensemen Brooks Opik and Christian Djoos out of position. Engelland is able to swipe the puck towards the front of the net to an undefended Reilly Smith who roofs it to give them a second period lead.

    VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS GOAL #4

    Vegas defenseman Shea Theodore gets the puck up high towards the blueline and tries to move forward with it. He makes a move but loses the puck, fortunately for him, the puck goes right to Derek England who sends it to the net. The puck bounces off the net and is eventually chipped out to Vegas winger Ryan Reaves who roofs it. Another significant moment in this play is when Reaves cross checks John Carlson to make space. The cross check is missed by the referee.

    VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS GOAL #5 (GWG)

    Vegas wins the faceoff and gets it back to Shea Theodore at the point. He attempts a shot but it is blocked by Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelley who subsequently tries to clear. He fails and Theodore keeps it in. The initial shot that was blocked by Smith-Pelley broke the blade off of his skate, severely impeding his ability to move across the ice. Theodore sees this and dances around him, opening a clear passing lane over to Tomas Nosek who snaps home the eventual game winning goal.

    VEGAS GOLDEN KNIGHTS GOAL #6

    In a mad rush to tie the game late, Alexander Ovechkin takes a shot from the point that is skillfully blocked by Nosek. The puck is deflected to a Vegas player and slid to open ice where Nosek retrieves  it and goes in all alone on the empty net to seal the game for Vegas.

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