WASHINGTON — The collective message coming out of the Vegas Golden Knights’ dressing room following their 3-1 loss to the Washington Capitals in Game 3 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final was the need to be better. The aggressive, speedy, chance-creating team we’ve seen all season was nowhere to be found inside Capital One Arena Saturday night.
Vegas generated only 22 shots on Braden Holtby, who if not for a third period brain cramp, would have likely recorded his third shutout of the playoffs. While Marc-Andre Fleury was keeping his team in the game with a number of highlight-reel stops, Holtby’s night wasn’t as busy with the Golden Knights failing to get to his net and create any sort of traffic.
Deryk Engelland summed it up saying there was a lack of chaos in front of the Washington net.
The Golden Knights were giving pucks away all night and had issues getting extending zone time with too many one-and-done zone entries. They were slow and were unable to transition successfully like they’ve done so many nights before.
“I think we’re a little late to pucks, late to forecheck,” said forward Alex Tuch. “We’re not forechecking as a five-man unit. We’ve just got to fix it.”
“For us, it’s unacceptable,” said forward James Neal.
In keeping Vegas’ offense at bay, the Capitals blocked 26 shots and clogged passing lanes, limiting any attempts at generating scoring chances. That kind of containment forced the Golden Knights off their game and ended up creating turnovers.
“We’ve got to be patient. Maybe make a quicker play, shoot before they get down, don’t force pucks,” Tuch said. “That’s what they were making us do. We were forcing pucks. We were forcing plays. Soon as we knew they were blocking shots, we got too cute, turned the puck over and had odd-man rushes against. We’ve just got to do straight lines and don’t overcomplicate things.”
Shea Theodore had a night to forget with a two turnovers (one thanks to a broken stick) that led to Washington goals. But the Game 3 loss can’t be pinned on just one player. Outside of Fleury, it was a poor effort collectively. The Capitals are seemingly getting better as the series moves along while the Golden Knights are regressing in areas. Every game in the Stanley Cup Final is a must-win game and the pressure to win Game 4 on Monday for Vegas just increased.
“When we play the right way, we deserve to win,” said forward Cody Eakin. “Tonight, we didn’t.”
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.