LAS VEGAS — How important is winning Game 2 for the Washington Capitals? There have been 51 teams that have grabbed a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final since the league went to a best-of-seven format in 1939. Forty-six of those teams have gone on to win the series.
Another trend is how successful home teams in Games 1 and 2 have been after taking care of business in their rink. Home sides who have swept the first two games of the Final are 36-3. So you can be sure the Washington Capitals are putting a ton on emphasis on heading home with the series knotted at one.
“For us, as a group, we learned a lot of lessons [Monday] night,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. “We’re not as familiar with Vegas in terms of the information we give the players and all that. They didn’t do anything different, but any opponent you play very seldomly, you have to get a feel for it.
“They’re a good checking team, they work extremely hard and they got a lot of their goals down around our net. And it wasn’t on primary plays, it was on secondary and third plays where we have to be a little more diligent and stay on pucks and take care of business. I didn’t think we had enough substance in our game. I would say we’ve got a lot more.
“If we make the adjustments that we need and everybody gets back to a little more of our foundation, then I think we will be back in the series quickly.”
When this series ends, we might be looking back at Game 1 as an outlier. A 10-goal spectacle that featured plenty of sloppy play on both sides. The Capitals and Golden Knights expect things to tighten up for Game 2. Washington will also look to improve upon its strong road record in these playoffs, having won eight of 11 games away from D.C. Their simplified road game work brilliantly in the Eastern Conference Final where they won three games at AMALIE Arena in Tampa.
Of course, the Golden Knights have shown all season long how difficult they can make it for visiting teams at T-Mobile Arena. They had one of the better records (29-10-2) at home during the regular season and are 7-1 this postseason.
Vegas likes to start games aggressively and have scored first in 12 of their 16 playoff games. Washington, however, did a good job of responding to the Golden Knights’ offensive success, which played a role in four total lead changes in Game 1. Their confidence on the road and offensive success against Marc-Andre Fleury on Monday night has them believing a better outcome is coming.
“They always come out hard here; that’s what they do, they’ve caught a lot of teams early,” said Capitals forward Lar Eller. “But I think we found a way to respond to that every time. The game was back and forth. They had the lead, then we had it, then they had it and we had it again.
“[Monday] night just goes to show that we can get a win here if we play the right way and we tighten up a little bit on the discipline, execute a little better, be a little sharper, then I like our chances.”
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub