Knights, Caps try to keep their cool in Vegas at Cup Final

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gerard Gallant and the Vegas Golden Knights still think Tom Wilson‘s third-period hit on Jonathan Marchessault in the Stanley Cup Final opener was too late and probably a bit dirty.

The coach also believes it sparked his team’s comeback victory in that Game 1 thriller.

So while he wasn’t happy to hear Wilson will face no discipline from the NHL, Gallant is hoping his team will remember the hit – and more importantly, how they played right after it – when they attempt to take a 2-0 series lead on the Washington Capitals on Wednesday night on the Strip.

”The good thing about the hit is it really woke our team up,” Gallant said after an optional practice at the Golden Knights’ suburban training complex. ”I think it was a 4-4 game?”

Indeed, two novice Stanley Cup finalists were deep into an entertainingly ramshackle opener, but the Knights took charge after that fateful collision left Marchessault sprawled on the ice. Vegas quickly got Tomas Nosek‘s go-ahead goal , eventually won 6-4 and surged one game closer to an improbable championship.

The focused aggression necessary to be a successful postseason team is a delicate concoction. The Golden Knights and Caps both had it during the conference playoffs, but they both admit it got away from them in Game 1.

”I think both teams can be better,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. ”It was a pretty sloppy game.”

After one game to get used to the sky-high stakes of the last round of this tournament, both teams intend to channel their nervous energy more constructively in the future. Both coaches stressed the importance of discipline, completing assignments and not allowing the frenetic Vegas crowd to overwhelm their emotions.

”There’s obviously nerves,” Washington’s Jay Beagle said. ”I’m not surprised at anything anymore, but in the Stanley Cup Final, usually it’s 2-1 or 1-0, not (6-4). But you don’t know what to expect from a team that you don’t know that much. Now we’ve got to know them a little bit more.”

The mistakes that worry coaches also lead to exciting hockey, and the opener was thoroughly entertaining even before Wilson lowered the boom on Marchessault. The teams combined for a Final-record four lead changes in the highest-scoring opener in eight years for this final round.

Wilson, who served a three-game suspension in the second round for breaking the jaw of Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese, and the Capitals still insist the hard-charging forward did nothing wrong when he leveled the Golden Knights’ top playoff scorer.

”It’s within the rules,” Wilson said after practice at T-Mobile Arena. ”It’s a clean hit. I don’t know why it got so much media attention, to be honest. It’s a hard hit, but that’s the day and age we’re in. … I’m trying to play my game. There’s a lot of those hits that are going on, but it’s the Stanley Cup Final, and it’s within the rules.”

The NHL Department of Player Safety agreed when it decided not to discipline Wilson for the shoulder-to-shoulder hit, clearly deciding that Wilson’s timing wasn’t extraordinarily late.

Marchessault went to the dressing room and was examined for a possible concussion, but returned to the game. Gallant said the forward is feeling fine for Game 2.

The Capitals had their own complaint about Vegas forward David Perron, who jumped on the ice after the whistle and made contact with Washington captain Alex Ovechkin during the scuffles immediately after the hit.

Once the emotions died down, both teams realized they’ve got to check their more primal urges if they hope to play a solid game on the NHL’s biggest stage. The atmosphere in Las Vegas for the city’s first Final has been electric, but the Caps weren’t intimidated by the frenzied crowd.

Washington goalie Braden Holtby said the biggest difference about playing in Vegas is ”the bass they put in the building. Maybe that’s a little false when … you’re literally shaking from the bass. That’s the only difference. (Their) fans are loud. Our fans are loud. Tampa’s, Pitt’s, Columbus, all fans are loud.”

The condition of the T-Mobile Arena ice also caused occasional problems for both teams with its inconsistencies and general roughness, but nobody is claiming the first-year NHL building has any unusual problems. The conditions certainly didn’t hurt the offensive players in any meaningful way, given the final score.

”Ice isn’t an excuse, because it’s the same for both teams,” Holtby said. ”You just want to figure it out quicker than them, and obviously they’ve had the advantage playing here for a while. Our ice isn’t any different than it is here. It’s just little differences. When it’s that hot out, there’s always one thing that’s not great. We’re just figuring out what you can and can’t do.”

More Stanley Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/StanleyCupFinals

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.

Maple Leafs’ Matthews out at least 3 weeks with knee injury

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Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews will miss at least three weeks with a sprained knee.

The team announced the reigning MVP’s anticipated absence Friday, two days after Matthews was injured in Toronto’s victory against the New York Rangers.

Matthews is expected to miss at least six games and could be out for a few more. The timing of the injury coinciding with the NHL All-Star break and the Maple Leafs bye week prevents this from costing Matthews more time out of the lineup.

After being voted an All-Star by fans, Matthews is now out of the event scheduled for Feb. 3-4 in Sunrise, Florida. The league announced Aleskander Barkov from the host Florida Panthers will take Matthews’ place on the Atlantic Division All-Star roster.

Matthews, who won the Hart Trophy last season after leading the NHL with 60 goals, has 53 points in 47 games this season.

Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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MONTREAL — Montreal Canadiens winger Cole Caufield said Friday he wouldn’t be having season-ending surgery on his right shoulder if the team were in playoff contention.

But with the Canadiens near the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings, the 22-year-old Caufield said he decided to have the surgery to protect his long-term health. The procedure is scheduled to be performed by Dr. Peter Millett on Wednesday.

“I didn’t want to stop playing,” Caufield said. “I had a couple tests done to look at it more clearly but, in the end, like it could’ve been one more fall and it could have been even worse.”

Caufield, who leads the Canadiens with 26 goals in 46 games, had three different medical opinions on his shoulder before concluding that his season was over.

“I think they’ve seen a lot more than I have and they know the differences and what they like or don’t like about it,” he said about the medical opinions. “Long term, I think this is what’s best but for sure it was tough to sit out that game against Toronto on Saturday night.”

Caufield initially felt the injury in an awkward fall during Montreal’s 4-2 loss at Dallas on Dec. 23. He said his right shoulder popped, and he replaced it himself.

Caufield felt it again in the Habs’ 4-3 loss at Nashville on Jan. 12. The club announced on Jan. 21 that Caufield would miss the rest of the season.

Caufield is nearing the end of his three-year, entry-level contract and will be a restricted free agent this summer.

All-Star Matty Beniers to miss next 2 games for Kraken

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SEATTLE — Seattle Kraken rookie All-Star Matty Beniers will miss the team’s final two games before the All-Star break after taking a big hit from Vancouver’s Tyler Myers earlier this week.

Seattle coach Dave Hakstol said after morning skate Friday that Beniers would not play Friday night against Calgary or Saturday against Columbus. Hakstol did not speculate on Beniers’ availability for next weekend’s All-Star Game in Florida.

The team has not specified what kind of injury Beniers sustained from the hit. He was barreled over by Myers away from the play early in the second period in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Vancouver. Myers was penalized for interference on the play. Beniers returned briefly for one shift later in the period but did not play in the third period.

Beniers is Seattle’s lone All-Star selection this season. He leads all rookies in goals (17) and points (36), and is fifth in total ice time for rookies.

Seattle also placed defenseman Justin Schultz on injured reserve and recalled forward Max McCormick from Coachella Valley of the AHL. Hakstol said Schultz is improving but there’s no timeline on his return.