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Only one team has erased 3-1 Final deficit, and it was madness

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If the Vegas Golden Knights are going to complete this improbable storybook season and win the Stanley Cup they are going to have to make some more history and do something that only one other team in NHL history has ever done: Overcome a 3-1 series deficit in the Stanley Cup Final.

While several teams have overcome such a deficit in the playoffs (including, improbably, five teams against the Washington Capitals!) only one team has actually done it in the Stanley Cup Final series.

It has not happened since 1942 when the Toronto Maple Leafs did it against the Detroit Red Wings.

Since then teams that have faced such a deficit in the Final series are holding an 0-31 record when it comes to winning the series. Obviously, history is not on the Golden Knights’ side. But Vegas has been making history all year and doing things that no other team has ever done.

[Related: Golden Knights hoping to learn from mistakes and mount Cup comeback]

So what is one more improbable accomplishment to add to the list?

If they are going to do it they are probably going to need Marc-Andre Fleury to return to the form he displayed in the first three rounds. They are going to need their top-line to get back on track and get some secondary scoring from pretty much any other line. They have to put the puck in open nets when they have the chance. They are going to have to find an answer for Evgeny Kuznetsov and Alex Ovechkin.

All of those are tall tasks.

Given what Vegas has to do let’s hop in a time machine and take a look back at the only team to actually complete such a comeback — the aforementioned 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs — because it might be one of the wildest Stanley Cup Final series in league history.

First, it was an historic accomplishment because it was the first time a Stanley Cup Final series had ever gone to a seventh game. It was not just that the Maple Leafs overcame a 3-1 series deficit, they overcome a 3-0 series deficit becoming the first team to ever do it in any sport.

It was in Game 4 of that series in Detroit where everything started to shift in Toronto’s favor, and it was in that game where all hell broke loose.

The Maple Leafs won that game by a 4-3 margin thanks to a late goal from Nick Metz.

But that goal was probably not the series-altering moment.

The game ended in a near riot thanks to some controversial officiating and then-Red Wings coach Jack Adams getting into a literal physical altercation with referee Mel Harwood, resulting in league president Frank Calder suspending him for the rest of the series.

Don’t believe me? Don’t take my word for it, take the Canadian Press’ word for it.

From the April 13, 1942 edition:

“The game ended in a near-riot, when manager Jack Adams of the Red Wings ran across the ice at the final whistle and started trading punches with referee Mel Harwood. Other players joined in and Harwood was escorted out of the rink by police.”

Madness!

What prompted Adams’ meltdown? In the closing minutes of the game Harwood issued consecutive penalties to Red Wings players Eddie Wares and Don Grosso, infuriating the team and Adams. It all started when Wares was issued a misconduct penalty and refused to leave the ice in protest.

At that point Harwood dropped the puck with Wares still on the ice, resulting in him promptly calling a too-many-men on the ice penalty and sending off Grosso.

Let’s go back to the CP for the full play-by-play:

The final-whistle blowoff started with a last-minute faceoff when Wares was handed a misconduct penalty, and then a $50 fine for repeated arguments and refusal to leave the ice. When the faceoff came, Wares was still on the ice and Detroit drew another penalty. With Grosso also sent to the bench, Grosso threw down his stick and gloves and promptly drew a $25 fine from referee Harwood.

That ended the game on a wild note, and the excitement flared again when Adams rushed on the ice and started swinging with Harwood. It was then that Calder jumped from his box to get the referee’s report on the incident.

Calder’s statement said: ‘For an attack on officials at the Stanley Cup game between the Detroit Re Wings and the Toronto MAple Leafs at Detroit Olympia April 12 of which I was an eye-witness, manager Jack Adams of Detroit is indefinitely suspended and prohibited from taking any further part in the bench management of the Detroit Red Wings. For their part in the affair, players Wares and Grosso are each fined $100.”

The Canadian Press report also included the nugget that The Olympia crowd had shown a dislike for the officiating by “constant booing and littering the rink with everything from paper and peanuts to a woman’s shoe.”

So much to take in here.

First, how crazy is it that on-ice officials could just hand out fines to players during games?

Then the fact that a coach actually raced across the ice and literally traded punches with an official!

Try to imagine that scene unfolding today.

Try to imagine Tom Wilson taking a penalty in the final minute of a game, refusing to leave the ice as he argues with Wes McCauley, then McCauley getting all sorts of petty and dropping the puck with Wilson still on the ice just so he could assess a too many men on the ice penalty to Jay Beagle, and then Barry Trotz storming across the ice to punch McCauley in the face. All while peanuts and women’s shoes rained down from the stands.

It was a different time, I guess.

After the game Wares told the CP, “You know what’s going to happen. It is going to go seven games.”

He was right.

With Adams suspended for the remainder of the series the Maple Leafs came out flying in Game 5 and routed the Red Wings 9-3 thanks to an unlikely hat trick from Don Metz (a player that had scored just 20 goals in 170 career games).

That was followed by Maple Leafs goalie Turk Broda recording a Game 6 shutout to send the series to a decisive seventh game where the Maple Leafs would take it 3-1, completing the comeback.

Nobody has ever done it in the Stanley Cup Final since.

Maybe it will happen this year?

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub
• Stanley Cup Final Guide
• Stanley Cup Final schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Capitals vs. Golden Knights: Your guide to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final

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HOW THEY GOT HERE

Capitals (49-26-7, 105 pts., Metropolitan Division title)
1st Round: Beat Columbus Blue Jackets in six games
2nd Round: Beat Pittsburgh Penguins in six games
Eastern Conference Final: Beat Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games

Golden Knights (51-24-7, 109 pts., Pacific Division title)
1st Round: Beat Los Angeles Kings in four games
2nd Round: Beat San Jose Sharks in six games
Western Conference Final: Beat Winnipeg Jets in five games

SCHEDULE
Game 1 Monday, May 28 – Golden Knights 6, Capitals 4
Game 2 Wednesday, May 30 – Capitals 3, Golden Knights 2
Game 3 Saturday, June 2 – Capitals 3, Golden Knights 1
Game 4 Monday, June 4 – Capitals 6, Golden Knights 2
Game 5 Thursday, June 7 – Capitals 4, Golden Knights 3 (Capitals win series 4-1)

PLAYOFF HISTORY

Capitals: 28 times in the playoffs, 1 Stanley Cup Final appearance
Golden Knights: Inaugural season

CONNECTIONS

Thirteen members of this Capitals playoff team were drafted by Vegas Golden Knights manager George McPhee during his 17-year tenure in Washington. Forward Jay Beagle was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2008 by McPhee.

Golden Knights defenseman Nate Schmidt played four seasons in Washington after being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2013. He was selected in last June’s expansion draft after the Capitals left him exposed. Vegas forward Cody Eakin was drafted by McPhee in 2009 and played only 30 games with the Capitals before being traded to Dallas in 2012.

McPhee and Capitals GM Brian MacLellan were teammates with the Guelph Holody Platers in the Ontario Junior A Hockey League in 1977-78. They would later play four seasons together at Bowling Green University and reunited for one season with the New York Rangers in 1985-86.

MacLellan and McPhee would become co-workers once their hockey careers ended. In 2004, MacLellan was hired by the Capitals and worked as a pro scout, director of player personnel and as an assistant GM to McPhee.

VEGAS PRE-GAME SHOW BREAK

What Washington D.C. symbol will the knight battle in the Cup Final?

[How Golden Knights were built | How Capitals were built]

CUP FINAL EXPERIENCE

Only Marc-Andre Fleury, James Neal and Brooks Orpik have played this far into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Fleury won three rings with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 (along with Orpik), 2016 and 2017. Neal, who was with the Nashville Predators last season, was on the losing end of the 2016 Final against Fleury’s Penguins.

TROPHY SUPERSTITION

Hockey players are superstitious and some captains have refused to touch the Prince of Wales Trophy and the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl for fear of bad luck. Others had no problem picking it up. Both Alex Ovechkin and Deryk Engelland lifted up their respective conference trophies, thus throwing the supposed jinx out of the window.

CONN SMYTHE UPDATE

The NHL’s playoff MVP award factors in all four rounds, not just the Final. Through three rounds, here’s who we have as the top five:

1. Marc-Andre Fleury, Golden Knights (.947 save percentage, 1.68 goals against average 4 shutouts)
2. Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (12 goals, 22 points)
3. Braden Holtby, Capitals (.923 save percentage, 2.04 goals against average, 2 shutouts)
4. Evgeny Kuznetsov, Capitals (11 goals, 24 points)
5. Jonathan Marchessault, Golden Knights (8 goals, 18 points)

2018 STANLEY CUP FINAL PREVIEW
• Who has the better forwards?
Who has better defense?
Who has better goaltending?
• Who has better special teams?
Who has better coaching?

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Marchessault brings ‘hot lap’ to Golden Knights practice

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WASHINGTON — It has been said time and time again that the NHL is a copycat league, but it is usually referring to the way teams build their rosters, implement strategy, or play the game in an effort to duplicate what winning teams are doing. It is not usually referring to the way teams kick off morning skates ahead of a playoff game because, well, that is just a little bit weird.

Then again, nobody ever said the NHL had to make sense. We do, after all, have a first-year expansion team in the Stanley Cup Final.

Throughout the playoffs the Washington Capitals have been getting a little bit of attention for their “hot lap” which involves a player taking a lap around the ice as fast as they can before practice. Jay Beagle started it in the first-round against the Columbus Blue Jackets, and a new skater for the lap is chosen after reach road loss.

It reached its most comical point when coach Barry Trotz took over the responsibility before Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

[Related: Barry Trotz takes his turn at the Capitals’ hot lap]

It has not gone unnoticed in the Vegas locker room where Jonathan Marchessault has been quietly going about doing it since the Western Conference Final.

It got a little more attention on Saturday morning when he kicked off the Golden Knights’ morning skate ahead of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final by taking his turn at it in Washington.

Following practice Marchessault said he saw Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin do it in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning and decided to do it before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals in Winnipeg following their Game 1 loss. The Golden Knights ended up winning that game and have not lost on the road since.

“The guys liked it,” Said Marchessault on Saturday morning. “So we’ll keep doing it on the road.”

Hot laps aside, Vegas has been a strong road team all postseason while both teams have continued a bizarre subplot in the 2018 playoffs where home-ice advantage seems to mean almost nothing.

The Golden Knights enter Saturday’s game with a 6-2 road record in the playoffs while the Capitals are only 4-5 at home.

“I’ve got no idea really,” said Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant on Saturday, when asked about the Capitals’ home struggles and if there was anything his team could exploit.

“They’ve had an unbelievable road record obviously, but they have a losing record here at home. I have no idea why. We’ll come here and play our game. A lot of times a team on the road just comes in here and plays a good solid hard working game and you get an opportunity. Sometimes being at home with the distractions things get a little tougher. Maybe hat is happening. It is hard to pinpoint.”

Once the game actually begins on Saturday though, none of this stuff — hot laps, previous records in previous games — is going to matter. It is all going to come down to what happens on the ice on Saturday.

When it comes to the outcome on the scoreboard the Golden Knights spent a lot of time on Saturday talking about having to “play their game” and limit the number of turnovers that they felt helped swing Game 2 in Washington’s favor.

Marchessault added that he does not think Vegas has played its best game in the Final yet, largely because of the turnovers. Gallant said a lot of the turnover issues are happening in the offensive zone which is there they really need to be strong.

“I want us to play fast, play a quick game,” said Gallant. “I think the biggest problem we’ve had is we are in the offensive zone and turning the puck over down there. We are throwing pucks on net but we are not getting the pucks to the net. They are taking the puck from the offensive zone, they are using their D to join the rush and making it a four-man attack. That is one of the biggest reasons. It is not really turning the puck over in the neutral zone, it is in the offensive zone. We need to make sure we are strong on the puck there.”

Related: Jonathan Marchessault, Golden Knights enjoying lucky Lamborghini 

MORE:

• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Alex Ovechkin ready for first Stanley Cup Final home game

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — “I want to win the Stanley Cup. I want to be the best, just the best. I must work. I must learn. Help my team. Play hockey, that’s all. Hockey is my life, you know. If I do not play hockey, I do not know what I do.” – Alex Ovechkin, October, 2005, via the Washington Post.

When Alex Ovechkin stepped on to the T-Mobile Arena ice ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, he could feel how much of an atmosphere change it was compared to the previous three rounds of the playoffs. There was a different energy in the air and the stage was even bigger than he had ever experienced.

On Saturday night, Ovechkin will hit the Capital One Arena ice for his first home game ever in a Cup Final. It’s been 20 years since the Capitals have played host to one, which means more of that different atmosphere and energy the Washington captain talked about, but unlike the scene in Vegas, the support will be behind him and his teammates.

“I’m excited. I think everybody’s excited in Washington,” Ovechkin said. “It’s going to be fun, it’s going to be interesting, it’s going to be hard — but that’s why we work so hard to be in this spot and be in this moment.”

Even through the numerous playoff disappointments, Ovechkin has always kept a loose mentality. No matter the situation, he’s tried to keep his teammates upbeat, even when times have been bad. He’s taken the losses hard, but that’s because he wants to win so badly.

Jay Beagle is one of the longer-tenured Capitals and has seen that regular season success turn into playoff disappointment. Through it all, he says, Ovechkin has remained the same.

“He’s always had a calming presence because he always keeps it loose and is a lot of fun to be around,” said Beagle, who’s neighbors with Ovechkin in the team’s dressing room. “He’s steps up in the big moments, says things when he needs to, but also keeps it loose when the time is right, too.”

Ovechkin has done his part in helping the Capitals reach the Cup Final. He’s second in the NHL in playoff scoring with 13 goals and 24 points, his most in the postseason since 2009. There’s growth in all players year-to-year, but Beagle says that this year is different.

“All of us grow every year — you grow as a player, you grow as a person,” said Beagle. “He’s been outstanding. Every time we’ve gone into the playoffs, he’s been our best player. But I really think he’s taken over the team. He’s really taken this as his team and he’s stepped his game up even more than he has in the past, which is very hard to do. He’s our leader. We follow him. He’s been unreal. He’s been unreal ever since I’ve been here, but he’s also growing like everyone else is growing, as a player and a person. He’s stepped up huge this playoffs.”

Since Ovechkin was drafted in 2004, he’s wanted to deliver a Stanley Cup to D.C. This is the closest he’s ever been to it, and the Capitals are three more wins away from delivering.

“He’s made a promise to himself to get his game to the next level and bring our team with him. I think he’s done that,” said Capitals head coach Barry Trotz. “I think he’s delivering on a lot of aspects. I think he’s grown as a player and our captain.”

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub

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Sean Leahy is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Ice melting to slush in Vegas heat at Stanley Cup Final

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LAS VEGAS (AP) — After just one game, it’s already clear this Stanley Cup Final is on thin ice. Thin, patchy, slushy, rut-riddled ice.

The Vegas Golden Knights have shocked the sporting world by playing for a championship in their inaugural season. But their incredible playoff run has taken them straight into summer in the Mojave Desert, where temperatures routinely soar past 100 degrees from May to October.

With sizzling heat outside and a frenzied sellout crowd inside, T-Mobile Arena’s ice melted into an inconsistent playing surface for the Golden Knights and the Washington Capitals in the series opener.

Despite constant sprucing from attendants during timeouts, both teams chased the puck through dozens of weird bounces and unpredictable slides while Vegas rallied for a 6-4 victory.

”It was pretty bad,” Washington forward Jay Beagle said. ”It’s so hot outside, so it’s not like it’s a surprise.”

And it’s about to get worse: The mercury on the Strip could hit triple digits Wednesday for Game 2, when the league is likely to see its hottest outdoor temperature ever recorded at a Final game.

But before any Canadians develop heatstroke at the prospect of their national game being played in a Nevada swimming pool, players on both teams were eager to make it clear the Vegas ice is absolutely playable.

”It’s the same for both teams, which is why it doesn’t matter,” Vegas forward James Neal said. ”It’s still the same game for everybody. Of course, everybody would like to play on perfect ice, but that doesn’t happen at this time of year.”

Middling ice quality can be a fact of life year-round in NHL rinks, particularly for the Sun Belt teams from Anaheim to Miami, yet their players still thrive. It’s common to see ice deterioration in rinks at various latitudes when temperatures rise while the NHL playoffs roll through spring.

The Capitals are well aware they won’t skate onto a pristine Nordic pond when they return to Capital One Arena for Game 3 on Saturday – not with 85-degree temperatures and 70-percent humidity in the Washington forecast.

”It’s probably the time of the year where it’s pretty hard to keep the ice fresh,” Washington forward Evgeny Kuznetsov said. ”But both teams play on the same ice.”

Both coaches used the Vegas ice quality to emphasize points in their game plan that would probably be important on any surface. Washington’s Barry Trotz and Vegas’ Gerard Gallant want a north-south approach with crisp passes, minimal puck-handling and no turnovers.

It’s all easier said than done when the puck refuses to behave.

”The pucks were bouncing pretty good,” Trotz said. ”Unfortunately, the ice wasn’t great. There was a lot of chaos.”

Dan Craig, the NHL official responsible for masterminding and maintaining the temporary ice sheets at outdoor games across the continent, has been working on the Vegas ice with the in-house crew. The sheet only went down one day before the series opener because T-Mobile had a Pink concert booked Saturday night – again, something that happens in playoff rinks all the time.

Gallant hopes the ice will be more consistent after two more days to set up. Most of the Capitals reported better conditions during practice at T-Mobile on Tuesday – although the arena also wasn’t filled with more than 18,575 screaming, sweating people.

”I don’t know if it was the empty building or – just like everything – it needs to cure a bit, but I thought it was really good (at practice),” Trotz said. ”So hopefully, that will help both teams.”

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

MORE:
• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub