LAS VEGAS — Since Sin City is hosting the opening two games of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, it might be a safe bet to say that Game 2 on Wednesday night won’t replicate the back-and-forth, exciting hockey we saw during Game 1.
The Vegas Golden Knights took the opening game against the Washington Capitals with a 6-4 victory, a 60-minute experience that had plenty of goals, four lead changes and a flash point moment of violence — and all of that followed a wild pre-game build up to puck drop.
Rust certainly played a role in a game that saw four goals in the first and third periods. The Golden Knights had eight days between rounds, while the Capitals had to wait five days. Bad ice at T-Mobile Arena was a decent factor as well, which a number of players on both sides noted after Tuesday’s skates.
“Every game’s different. Next game could be 1-0 or 2-1 or whatever,” said Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly. “It’s just the way the game was going. Both teams were excited and anxious, the puck’s bouncing around and a couple of weird lucky goals. It was just one of those games where I don’t think you’re going to see 6-4 games every night, that’s for sure.”
As hockey fans, we’d really, really love to see six more games like Game 1 in this series, minus the questionable hit that warranted discussion by the NHL Department of Player Safety.
Smith-Pelly said he expected both teams to be more relaxed in Game 2. All of the build up to the Final and the first game is out of the way. Now it’s just a regular hockey series the rest of the way, but with a decent prize awaiting the winner.
Despite the slop-fest, there are positives for both sides to take away. The obvious first one is the fact that the Golden Knights came out victorious with Marc-Andre Fleury allowing four goals. Before Game 1, during the regular season and playoffs, he’d allowed four goals eight times. All losses. For the Capitals, they found a way to beat Fleury four times. Clean up some sloppy defensive zone play and hold on to a lead for more than the 4:27 combined that they did on Monday and Wednesday’s outcome could be different.
“Both could be better. Small margin for error out there,” said Golden Knights forward James Neal. “You have one turnover and you find it in the back of your net. For us, we have to be a little better coming out of our end. When we get in the offensive zone, we have to get a little bit better there.”
Players weren’t happy with the game. Coaches weren’t happy with the game. Adjustments will be made on both sides as Barry Trotz and Gerard Gallant will be hammering home the mistakes that hurt their teams. We’ll just have to enjoy what Game 1 was because we’re probably not going to see it again.
“I don’t expect it to be 6-4. Let’s face it, Stanley Cup Final, a 6-4 game is not really a good game. I think it was a little bit sloppy from both sides,” said Vegas forward Pierre-Edouard Bellmare. “I think it will be a little bit less stress and more focus tomorrow.”
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub