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I am a contributing editor/writer/troublemaker for NBC's Pro Hockey Talk blog.

PHT’s Three Stars: Golden Game 1 for Vegas

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1st Star: Reilly Smith, Vegas Golden Knights

Yes, Vegas enjoyed better contributions from its supporting scorers in Game 1 (see the second star), but the top line of Smith, Jonathan Marchessault, and William Karlsson still flexed their muscles to help the Golden Knights beat the Washington Capitals 6-4.

Smith was credited with the primary assist on Karlsson’s 2-2 goal, which was crucial as the Capitals generated two goals during a 42-second span and could have conceivably introduced some doubt into Vegas’ mind if that lead persisted into the first intermission. Instead, it was tied up with less than two minutes remaining in the opening frame.

After that, Smith gave the Golden Knights a brief 3-2 lead by beating Braden Holtby on a top-corner finish.

The beauty of this Game 1 win is that there were multiple Golden Knights conceivably in the running here. Do note that, while most of the goals weren’t their fault, neither goalie came close to making the top three.

2nd Star: Tomas Nosek, Golden Knights

Allow this spot to also serve as Deryk Engelland‘s mention, as the defenseman nabbed two assists (one primary, one secondary) while firing five shots on goal and logging 20:50 TOI. His transformation from borderline enforcer to legitimate NHL defenseman remains stunning.

Nosek gets the nod, however, because he scored two goals; he isn’t the first star because his second tally was shorthanded. He generated a +3 rating despite a scant 12:22 TOI.

(So maybe Engelland does deserve that spot? Let’s just cheat here. Don’t tell anyone.)

3rd Star: T.J. Oshie, Washington Capitals

While Nosek scored on an empty net for his second goal, Shea Theodore also deserves the credit for that game-winner.

In honor of the night’s best passers, let’s consider Oshie. He generated two assists, including a ludicrous helper that allowed John Carlson to score on a near-empty net. If not for Theodore, it would have been the best assist of a Game 1 that was full of beautiful passes.

Oshie also generated the primary assist on Nicklas Backstrom‘s 2-1 goal, so it was quite a night for a guy who’s proven to be more than just That Fellow Who Scored A Bunch of Olympic Shootout Goals in 2014.

Highlight of the Night

Theodore to Nosek for the game-winner and breath-taker:

If you’re into rougher stuff, this post touches on the Tom Wilson and Ryan Reaves dramas.

Factoid of the Night

Want to point to one Vegas Golden Knights stat that’s truly unsustainable? Move over, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s save percentage (playoffs and regular season) and William Karlsson’s regular-season shooting percentage:

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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.

Golden Knights upset about Wilson hit; Capitals react to Reaves non-call

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Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final featured some absolutely fantastic hockey. If you’re in it for the drama – even beyond the Medieval Times intro – then the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals didn’t disappoint on Monday, either.

More than a few people would argue that the officials disappointed in Vegas’ 6-4 win, though.

The third period featured at least two controversial moments, leaving each team with legitimate beefs. They took the opportunity to gripe about those things, too.

‘Wilson being Wilson’

If you were forced to name one Capitals player who’d polarize viewers with a hit, it would be Tom Wilson. Well, if that was you’re guess, you were right.

Wilson delivered this hit on Jonathan Marchessault, which drew an interference penalty (but not a power play for Vegas, as David Perron was whistled for cross-checking Alex Ovechkin). Mike Milbury believed that the penalty calls were “suspicious.”

After Game 1, the Golden Knights followed the script by saying that Wilson followed his pigeonholed role in the NHL as someone who arguably crosses the line.

“I saw the hit. I remember everything. It’s a late hit,” Marchessault said. “I think the league’s going to take care of it. We know what type of player he is out there. You’ve got to keep your head up when he’s there …”

Ryan Reaves is generating complaints from the other side, but that didn’t stop him from weighing in on Wilson’s hit. (Note: if you’re wondering about a possible Wilson – Reaves fight, consider it unlikely. You could say they’re in different “weight classes.”)

“It’s late … I hope the league does something about it,” Reaves said. “That’s just Wilson being Wilson.”

Gang, it seems like “Wilson being Wilson” is more violent and less strange than “Manny being Manny.”

Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant said that the team was “upset about the hit” and believed that Wilson should have received a five-minute major. That said, Gallant described the overall officiating in Game 1 as “outstanding” and praised his team for responding well after the check.

(Indeed, the Golden Knights went on to score two more goals to break a 4-4 tie and win 6-4.)

It’s difficult to imagine the NHL handing out another suspension for Wilson during the same postseason, especially since Marchessault eventually returned to Game 1 after going through concussion protocol. That’s especially true since the Capitals missed Wilson when he was suspended.

From penalty to goal allowed?

After Game 1, Milbury was also unhappy with Ryan Reaves getting away with cross-checking John Carlson before scoring that pivotal 4-4 goal:

Capitals coach Barry Trotz believes that a penalty should have been called there.

No doubt, that was a huge swing. If a cross-checking call would have come about, it would have negated the 4-4 goal and allowed the Caps to go on the power play with a 4-3 lead intact. Washington wasn’t able to flex its special teams muscles often in Game 1, as the Capitals went 0-for-1 on the man advantage while Vegas connected on its lone opportunity.

Maybe that’s why Gallant felt so great about the officiating? Spoiler: Caps fans disagree with Gallant about that one.

For more on Game 1, check out PHT’s recap.

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• 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.

Golden Knights beat Capitals in Stanley Cup Final Game 1 thriller

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If there were any worries about the on-ice action living up to the Vegas Golden Knights’ zany pre-game presentation, those concerns were put to rest early in Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final.

The Golden Knights took a 1-0 series after edging the Washington Capitals by a score of 6-4 during a contest that was as dramatic as an episode of “Game of Thrones.” (Or at least the off-brand “Game of Thrones” we saw during that wonderfully over-the-top intro.)

Game 1 featured multiple lead changes, some real nastiness (yes, there was a controversial Tom Wilson hit), missed calls, occasionally choppy ice, and beautiful plays. For all the twists and turns, one constant defies logic: the Golden Knights fit right in. Washington carried moments of play, sure, but this was at least a 50-50 game.

Earlier during this postseason, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s tremendous play made the difference. If Fleury wasn’t enough, Vegas’ top line often pushed the Golden Knights over the edge.

This time around, just about everyone chipped in.

Some of the most thrilling play occurred during the first period. Colin Miller scored the first goal of the championship round on a seeing-eye shot during a power play, and Vegas bottled up Washington for about half of the frame. The Capitals then scored twice in just 42 seconds, challenging Vegas to remain resilient. They passed that test, as William Karlsson made it 2-2 with a key goal.

As the contest went on, it sometimes felt like hockey’s answer to a game of H-O-R-S-E.

T.J. Oshie sent a tremendous pass to John Carlson, who celebrated his 3-3 goal with gusto.

Shea Theodore saw that pass and decided to up the ante, sending a tremendous feed to Tomas Nosek for the game-winner (after Ryan Reaves collected another goal after a cross-check that wasn’t called). Nosek also generated the empty-netter to seal this one up.

This game featured just about everything, with excitement in large quantities. Maybe rust showed in some mistakes by both sides, but the electric pace was there. If the remainder of this series is anywhere close to as captivating as Game 1 was, hockey fans are in for a treat.

Now Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals need to shake this loss off or face yet another uphill battle to keep their own fairytale story going.

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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.

Tom Wilson late hit part of Stanley Cup Game 1 getting nasty

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Sometimes, officials letting penalties go without a whistle might just mean that creative players face a more uphill battle. Other times, it can make things downright dangerous for just about everyone, as teams might test the limits of what goes unpenalized.

That’s especially true when emotions run high and one team feels slighted.

Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final is displaying some of that dynamic during the third period. First, it sure seemed like Ryan Reaves got away with a cross-check before scoring the 4-4 goal, creating an unlikely two-game goal streak for the enforcer. (As you may remember, he scored the clinching goal against Winnipeg in Game 5 of the third round.)

Mike Milbury discussed the goal and on-call after Game 1:

The third period essentially ushered in both the good and bad versions of Tom Wilson.

The good: Wilson echoed Brett Connolly‘s deflection goal to briefly give Washington a 4-3 lead.

The bad: The polarizing winger was guilty of a late hit on Vegas star Jonathan Marchessault, who was forced to go through concussion protocol. Watch video of the hit in the clip among this post’s headline.

The play drew matching minors for both teams, as Wilson was whistled for interference while David Perron received a cross-checking penalty for going after Alex Ovechkin. So, technically, those exchanges did warrant penalties, but no one received a power-play opportunity for their troubles.

Marchessault eventually returned from concussion protocol. Wilson already experienced a three-game suspension during the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet fair or not, he remains a lightning rod for controversy.

Vegas ended up beating Washington 6-4 in Game 1 to take a 1-0 series lead. Read more about that here.

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• 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.

Catapults, Michael Buffer: Intro to Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final had it all

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Grab a bowl full of “Game of Thrones,” spice generously with Medieval Times, and turn everything up to 11 like “Spinal Tap” and you have the Vegas Golden Knights’ introduction for Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Apparently fancy archers weren’t enough, either, as they decided to bring out catapults.

Yes, it was as over-the-top as many of us hoped for. If you’re the grumpy purist type, and you’re not used to it yet, then this presentation probably only made your blood boil more.

Oh yeah, there was also Michael Buffer announcing the Golden Knights’ and Washington Capitals’ lineups, not to mention Lil Jon and Criss Angel revving up the crowd. Click the clip below if you’re ready to rumble.

It’s a good thing that Vegas is overflowing with celebrities (from the red-hot to the washed-up), because other markets would probably worry about running out of star power by Game 2.

Instead, we’re expecting even more fireworks (some literal, more figurative).

Enjoy that zany, fun presentation in the video above this post’s headline.

The action on the ice should be thrilling and fascinating, too, of course, You can watch Game 1 live on NBC and stream it via this link.

Before we go, a sample of the happier reactions:

… And one fun-killer

Hey, you can’t win them all.

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?
• How Golden Knights were built
• How Capitals were built

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• NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub