If there were any worries about the on-ice action living up to the Vegas Golden Knights’ zany pre-game presentation, those concerns were put to rest early in Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.
The Golden Knights took a 1-0 series after edging the Washington Capitals by a score of 6-4 during a contest that was as dramatic as an episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Or at least the off-brand “Game of Thrones” we saw during that wonderfully over-the-top intro.)
Game 1 featured multiple lead changes, some real nastiness (yes, there was a controversial Tom Wilson hit), missed calls, occasionally choppy ice, and beautiful plays. For all the twists and turns, one constant defies logic: the Golden Knights fit right in. Washington carried moments of play, sure, but this was at least a 50-50 game.
Earlier during this postseason, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s tremendous play made the difference. If Fleury wasn’t enough, Vegas’ top line often pushed the Golden Knights over the edge.
This time around, just about everyone chipped in.
Some of the most thrilling play occurred during the first period. Colin Miller scored the first goal of the championship round on a seeing-eye shot during a power play, and Vegas bottled up Washington for about half of the frame. The Capitals then scored twice in just 42 seconds, challenging Vegas to remain resilient. They passed that test, as William Karlsson made it 2-2 with a key goal.
As the contest went on, it sometimes felt like hockey’s answer to a game of H-O-R-S-E.
Shea Theodore saw that pass and decided to up the ante, sending a tremendous feed to Tomas Nosek for the game-winner (after Ryan Reaves collected another goal after a cross-check that wasn’t called). Nosek also generated the empty-netter to seal this one up.
This game featured just about everything, with excitement in large quantities. Maybe rust showed in some mistakes by both sides, but the electric pace was there. If the remainder of this series is anywhere close to as captivating as Game 1 was, hockey fans are in for a treat.
Now Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals need to shake this loss off or face yet another uphill battle to keep their own fairytale story going.
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub