PHT’s Three Stars: Oh my, Ovechkin (and Kuznetsov)

1st Star: Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington Capitals

This is one of those “1a, 1b” situations, as Alex Ovechkin really flexed his muscles in Game 3.

When in doubt, go with the guy who played through an apparent injury, scored more points, and once again flapped his wings like an eagle. That guy would be Evgeny Kuznetsov, who generated the game-winning goal and also assisted on Ovechkin’s tally on Saturday.

Remarkably, whatever Kuznetsov’s upper-body ailment is, it didn’t stop him from shining in peripheral categories. The slick center generated four shots on goal and went 5-2 on faceoffs. (He also was a +2 to Ovechkin’s +1, if you really want to get granular about it.)

2nd Star: Alex Ovechkin, Capitals

Kuznetsov also set up Ovechkin for what seems like a certain goal early on in Game 3, only it wasn’t. From basically their first shift tonight, Ovechkin and Kuznetsov looked like they were going to dominate, only really “slowing down” when the Capitals were more focused on maintaining their lead instead of taking control of the contest.

(There was also a near-goal for Tom Wilson, the other piece of the top line.)

Ovechkin filled up the stat sheet along with his potentially iconic goal, firing five shots on goal, delivering two hits, and even joining the Capitals’ shot block party with two. “The Great Eight” is now on a four-game point streak (three goals, one assist) for 25 points in 22 postseason contests. At this rate, Ovechkin might add two elusive pieces of hardware to his trophy case: a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe.

Although Kuznetsov might have something to say about that last part …

[Dig deeper on Ovechkin’s outstanding Game 3.]

3rd Star: Marc-Andre Fleury, Vegas Golden Knights

You could make the case for other Caps to be in this spot, but goodness, did “MAF” ever make some tremendous saves in this one. His early stop on Ovechkin inspired its own PHT post. Honestly, the save on Tom Wilson mentioned above was right up there with that robbery of Ovechkin:

Barry Trotz and the Capitals were able to make Game 3 a low-event fare (Washington won the SOG battle at 26-22), yet Fleury still fought through some serious “degree of difficulty” and really kept Vegas in this one.

While his numbers aren’t looking as superhuman during the 2018 Stanley Cup Final after a splendid regular season and first three rounds, Fleury’s actually still been quite outstanding for much of this series.

The same can’t be said for the team in front of him in Game 3.

[More on an “unacceptable” performance from the Golden Knights.]

Highlight of the Night

When Alex Ovechkin channels Bobby Orr in a win, it trumps Fleury denying Ovechkin but losing.

Celebrity fun

Pat Sajak introduced Game 3, while Kenan Thompson endured the Internet’s myriad of “Mighty Ducks” references to regale us with impressions.

(Fumbles in trying to come up with a decent “Good Burger” callback.)

Key factoids

As a reminder, this is the first time ever/during this run that the Vegas Golden Knights have lost consecutive playoff games. Wild.

Along with tying John Druce for the Capitals’ goals mark (14) during a single postseason, Alex Ovechkin also climbed some active and all-time rankings with his 60th career playoff tally. Oh yeah, he got there pretty quickly, too:

(Kuznetsov, meanwhile, beefed up his Capitals all-time record with his 27th playoff point.)

Finally, why the locals are so jazzed for the Caps:

MORE:

• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

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    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.

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

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    Caufield opted for surgery with Habs out of playoff race

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