Is the curtain beginning to close on the Vegas Golden Knights?

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Could the weight of everything the Vegas Golden Knights have achieved this season be finally starting to catch up with the sporting world’s best story?

If so, it would be the worst of the worst possible times.

In Vegas’ 100th game as a franchise, they did something that they hadn’t in their previous 17 before it — lose back-to-back in the playoffs.

The Golden Knights cruised into the Stanley Cup Final with a 12-3 record. They swept the Los Angeles Kings and then won a 4-2 series against the San Jose Sharks and a 4-1 series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Hell, they even won the first game of the Cup Final.

Everything was seemingly going to destiny’s plan.

Sure, the bounces didn’t go Vegas’ way in Game 2. And there was ‘The Save’. But no matter, right? The team had gone 3-0 after losing in these playoffs, outscoring opponents 12-7 in those games.

And they were heading to Washington, where the Capitals had only won four of nine games in these playoffs prior to Saturday.

It was a game primed for a bounce back, Vegas’ M.O. this postseason. Instead, the Golden Knights struggled as Washington stepped up their game.

Washington seemed committed to the cause. Alex Ovechkin was blocking shots. Washington moved the puck better, moved their feet faster and throttled the Golden Knights in the neutral zone and clogged up all the lanes in their own zone.

The Capitals’ buy-in was tremendous and this stymied one of the quickest teams in the playoffs. Vegas wasn’t able to bounce back after getting scored on, something they’ve been able to rely on with reasonable probability. The pressure the Capitals put on them continued and continued. And then the final buzzer sounded at Capital One Arena.

There weren’t many positives for the Golden Knights fall back on either. Sure, they scored a goal — but that goal came off an abnormal misplay of the puck from Braden Holtby.

Credit to Vegas, they weren’t leaning on any silver linings after the game. They did produce a few troubling quotes though.

“I feel like we’re a little bit nervous,” Golden Knights forward David Perron told reporters following Game 3. “We don’t make too many plays out there right now. It’s not something we’ve done.”

Perhaps the magnitude of the moment is setting in?

“I think at times maybe a bounce or two isn’t going our way, so we’re overthinking it and overcomplicating it for ourselves,” Alex Tuch added.

This is uncharted territory for a team that has taken the path of least resistance to get to this point.

The goals aren’t coming like they used to and pucks are going past Marc-Andre Fleury in ways Vegas isn’t used to seeing.

Fleury’s save percentage has nosedived in this series. He waltzed into the Cup Final saving 95 percent of the shots he’s faced. That number has taken a near-10 percent hit through three games.

Game 1: .857
Game 2: .885
Game 3: .885

This is troubling given that the Golden Knights are giving up the least number of shots in this series, on average, than in any of their previous ones, including 5.5 shots less than they did against the Jets in the last round.

Vegas isn’t on the ropes, yet. They can reverse this whole narrative with a Game 4 win on Monday night.

But to do so, they have to scheme against a team that is simply out-scheming them at the moment.

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

The Playoff Buzzer: Wild Card teams are 4-for-4

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  • The Washington Capitals blew 2-0 and 3-1 leads to drop Game 7 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Former Capitals player and frequent Game 7 star Justin Williams played a big role in Carolina’s 2OT winning goal.
  • With Carolina’s victory, all four Wild Card teams have advanced to Round 2.

Hurricanes 4, Capitals 3 [2OT] (CAR wins 4-3)
The Capitals got off to a terrific start. Andre Burakovsky and Tom Wilson scored in the first 6:23 minutes of the contest, but rather than fall apart, the Hurricanes dug in. It wasn’t until 2:56 of the third period when the Hurricanes caught up thanks to a Jordan Staal goal. Washington battled hard for the rest of the third period, but once overtime started the game was all Carolina until finally they broke through when Brock McGinn tipped in a Jason Williams shot. With that, the defending Stanley Cup champions are done and a franchise that last made the playoffs in 2009 is going to Round 2.

Three Stars

1. Brock McGinn, Carolina Hurricanes.
He got the series-winning goal and registered an assist on Teuvo Teravainen‘s marker. This was the 25-year-old’s first playoff series and prior to it he had 36 goals in 240 career regular season games. Of those 36 goals, only two were game-winners.

2. Jaccob Slavin, Carolina Hurricanes.

Assisted on three of the Hurricanes’ four goals. He also led both teams with 38:27 minutes of ice time in the 2OT contest. He finished the series with nine assists in seven games.

3. Andre Burakovsky, Washington Capitals.

Got the scoring started just 2:13 minutes into the contest off a superb steal. It was his first goal of the series.

One goal Dougie Hamilton will be happy is forgotten

It didn’t end up defining the game, but Alex Ovechkin outplayed Hamilton on this goal. If Washington won this game, this goal might have been a big part of the story.

Factoids of the night

Thursday’s Games

Game 1: Blue Jackets at Bruins, 7:00 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 1: Stars at Blues, 9:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

No More Champs: Hurricanes oust Capitals in 2OT

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Not even the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals were immune in one of the craziest opening rounds ever seen. Brock McGinn tipped a shot by Justin Williams in double overtime in a series-clinching 4-3 victory for the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7.

Early on, it didn’t look like this would be a dramatic contest. Andre Burakovsky stripped the puck away in the Hurricanes’ zone and then beat goalie Petr Mrazek to put Washington on the board just 2:13 minutes into the game. Just four minutes later, Alex Ovechkin outplayed Hurricanes defenseman Dougie Hamilton before feeding the puck to Tom Wilson, who made the game 2-0.

Carolina hung in there though. Sebastian Aho scored a shorthanded goal at 9:51 of the second period to cut the lead in half. Evgeny Kuznetsov regained the two-goal lead at 13:22 of the second period, but Teuvo Teravainen answered right back at 16:37.

Early in the third period, Jordan Staal got a clean shot on Braden Holtby that he managed to get by him. It’s one that Holtby arguably should have gotten, but he didn’t have help on that play either and the end result was the game was tied.

From there, Carolina was a dominant force in overtime and it looked more and more like it was just a matter of time before the Hurricanes beat Holtby one more time. It took a while, but it happened.

Just like that, all four wild-card teams have advanced. Washington is out. Pittsburgh, which won the Cup in 2016 and 2017, is out. Vegas, which got to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, is out. Tampa Bay, which tied an NHL record with 62 wins in the regular season, is out.

This year has reinforced the notion that anything can happen in the playoffs. Carolina will face the New York Islanders in Round 2 and while the Hurricanes might be the underdogs, that hasn’t been a bad spot to be in.

MORE: Round 2 schedule, TV info

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2019: Round 2 schedule, TV info

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We’re down to eight.

With the last Game 7 out of the way in Round 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, we can now look ahead to all that Round 2 will bring.

The battle for the 2019 Stanley Cup continues as eight teams vie to become this year’s champion, and there won’t be a repeat after the Washington Capitals got bounced in Game 7 on Wednesday. All four wildcard teams are in. All four divisional winners are out. It’s been a wild ride and there are still three rounds to go.

Here is the full Round 2 schedule with the all-important TV information: 

MORE: 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Schedule, Bracket, Streams and More

For the third consecutive postseason, NBC Sports’ coverage of Stanley Cup Playoff first-round games on NBCUniversal cable networks (NBCSN, USA Network and CNBC), as well as NHL Network, will air side-by-side and will be available for streaming on NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app in local markets alongside regional sports network game telecasts. (Local blackouts apply in Las Vegas and Pittsburgh in the first round).


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

WATCH LIVE: Capitals, Hurricanes meet in Game 7

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Game 7: Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals, 7:30 p.m. ET (Series tied 3-3)
NBCSN
Call: Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire
Series preview

Stream here

Tonight’s pre-game coverage on NBCSN begins at 6:30 p.m. ET with NHL Live, hosted by Kathryn Tappen alongside analysts Jeremy Roenick and Keith Jones.

NBC Sports begins its exclusive coverage of the Second Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tomorrow with a Game 1 doubleheader on NBCSN. Coverage starts at 7 p.m. ET between the Columbus Blue Jackets and Boston Bruins, followed by the Dallas Stars-St. Louis Blues series at 9:30 p.m. ET. Thursday’s doubleheader pre-game coverage begins on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET with NHL Live.