WASHINGTON (AP) Evgeny Kuznetsov smiled about getting four assists. He tried not to smile too much at the thought of being one win away from the Stanley Cup.With Kuznetsov and goaltender Braden Holtby leading the way http://www.officialpenguinsproshop.com/authentic-adidas-justin-schultz-jersey
, the Washington Capitals are on the verge of capturing the first title in their 43rd season after routing the Vegas Golden Knights 6-2 on Monday night to take a commanding 3-1 series lead.Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals will get their first chance to hoist the Cup in Game 5 on Thursday night in Las Vegas.One more win.”I’ve never been there,” Kuznetsov said after just the fourth four-assist game in Cup Final history. ”And I don’t really care about that yet, so it’s kind of easy for me. You know me, I always stay loose a little bit especially off the games. I’m pretty sure when game gonna come, we’re gonna a little bit think about it. It’s pretty hard to not think about that.”T.J. Oshie, Tom Wilson and Devante Smith-Pelly all scored in the first period to get the Capitals rolling against a determined Vegas team that has not found consistent answers against Holtby, who stopped 28 shots in another strong showing. The Golden Knights outchanced the Capitals by a wide margin but fell apart after James Neal clanked a shot off the post instead of hitting a wide-open net early, and the expansion team’s Cinderella run could be over in a matter of days.”It probably changes the game,” Neal said. ”It’s probably a different game after that I had a wide-open net, and then I just hit the post.”John Carlson, Michal Kempny and Brett Connolly also scored as thunderous chants of ”We want the Cup! We want the Cup!” rang out from the crowd. No team since the Detroit Red Wings in 1942 has blown a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final.”It can be easy in a game where you can clinch to get a little bit ahead of ourselves,” Oshie said. ”But we’ve got a good group of leaders in the room … and we’ll be focused at the start.”The Capitals seem to be getting enough bounces to make up for nine previous first- or second-round playoff exits in the Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom era – and plenty of disappointments in the previous decades, too.While Vegas rang several shots off the posts, the Capitals seized just about every opportunity as they have throughout this surprising run. Kuznetsov padded his lead as the playoffs’ leading scorer with primary assists on Oshie’s power-play goal that made it 1-0 and Wilson’s that doubled the lead.”He just tells me to put my stick on the ice and he’ll hit it,” Wilson said of Kuznetsov. ”It’s a privilege to play with him. He’s one of the best at his craft.”Smith-Pelly, who scored the insurance goal to ice Game 3, kicked the puck from his left skate to his stick and roofed a shot on Marc-Andre Fleury with 20.5 seconds left in the first period. Fleury came into the final as the Conn Smythe front-runner for playoff MVP honors but looked human again by allowing six goals on 23 shots at a defense that has often left him vulnerable.Fleury called the loss ”frustrating and demoralizing.” Coach Gerard Gallant was quick to absolve his goaltender of blame.”At least five of the six goals were wide-open nets Kris Letang Jersey
,” Gallant said. ”Nothing he could do on them.”Kuznetsov leads all playoff scorers with 31 points, Ovechkin is tied for the goal lead with 14 and Holtby showed again his ability to alter the course of a game. Holtby got some good fortune from the post on shots by Alex Tuch, Neal and Brayden McNabb, but he also had not allowed a goal in more than 62 minutes stretching back to Game 3.”We obviously got some breaks at the start of the game,” Holtby said. ”Honestly I thought (Neal’s shot) was in, my angle, and somehow it didn’t go in.”Somehow, the Capitals have turned around their results at home, winning their past three in Washington after losing five of their first eight. This one got chippy at the end when Oshie broke Vegas defenseman Colin Miller’s nose on a hit and was given a game-ending 10-minute misconduct along with Golden Knights forwards Deryk Engelland and Ryan Reaves.”It is not ideal, but it is the Stanley Cup finals and everyone wants to win,” Backstrom said.Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said he and his Vegas teammates can’t win three games in one night, so they have no choice but to focus on the next opportunity to stave off elimination.Coach Barry Trotz wants his players to relax and not think too much about the chance in front of them.”You have the opportunity to do something special as a group, but it’s going to be the hardest thing to do, the hardest game to win because there’s a very good team on the other side, a very proud team,” Trotz said. ”They’re great in their building. We’re not scared of their building. We’ve proved it that we’re very good on the road and we’re going to go there and put our best effort in there.”—More Stanley Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/StanleyCupFinals
— WASHINGTON (AP) Artemi Panarin scored 6:02 into overtime to give the Columbus Blue Jackets a 4-3 victory over the Washington Capitals on Thursday night in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series.Panarin made an incredible individual move to drive by fellow Russian Dmitry Orlov and went backhand-to-forehand to beat Philipp Grubauer top shelf.Game 2 is Sunday night in Washington.Alexander Wennberg, Thomas Vanek and Seth Jones scored in regulation Mario Lemieux Jersey
, and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 shots for Columbus, which got two power-play goals to continue a strong trend since the trade deadline.Wennberg left the game with an upper-body injury in the third period and didn’t return. Jones, son of former NBA player Popeye Jones, drew a penalty late in the third period, almost put the puck in his own net and tied it on the ensuing power play with 4:26 left in regulation to send the game to overtime.Washington got two power-play goals from Evgeny Kuznetsov on Josh Anderson’s five-minute major penalty for boarding Michal Kempny and an even-strength goal on the rush in the third period by Devante Smith-Pelly. Grubauer, who got the nod to start over 2016 Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender Braden Holtby, made 23 saves in his second career playoff start.LIGHTNING 5, DEVILS 2TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – Tampa Bay got early goals from four players – none of them named Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos – before holding off New Jersey in Game 1.Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Yanni Gourde scored, helping the Lightning build a 3-0 lead that New Jersey trimmed to one goal before Alex Killorn and Kucherov, who added an empty-netter, finished off the win.Taylor Hall scored an unassisted goal in the second period, then assisted on Travis Zajac’s power-play goal that cut it to 3-2 midway through third against Andrei Vasilievskiy.Killorn’s shot over the glove of goalie Kevin Kincaid’s glove restored a two-goal lead before Kucherov, who led the Lightning with 100 points this season, ensured there would be no comeback.Vasilievskiy made 29 saves.Game 2 is Saturday at Amalie Arena.SHARKS 3, DUCKS 0ANAHEIM Matt Murray Jersey
, Calif. (AP) – Evander Kane scored two goals in his first career playoff game, Martin Jones made 25 saves and the Sharks beat the Ducks in their first-round series opener.Brent Burns also scored and captain Joe Pavelski had two assists during a three-goal second period to help the Sharks easily take early control in the series between California rivals. San Jose and Anaheim have been regular playoff teams for the past 15 years, yet are meeting in the postseason for only the second time.John Gibson stopped 30 shots for the Ducks, who lost a series opener at home in their third consecutive playoff series. Anaheim had won seven straight home games down the regular-season stretch, losing in regulation at home just once in 17 games since late January.Game 2 is Saturday night at Honda Center.BRUINS 5, MAPLE LEAFS 1BOSTON (AP) – Brad Marchand, David Backes and David Krejci each scored a power-play goal, and Tuukka Rask stopped 26 shots in Boston’s Game 1 victory over Toronto.David Pastrnak also scored for Boston, and Sean Kuraly bunted one out of the air and into the net over goalie Frederik Andersen to make it 4-1 with seven minutes gone in the third period. Krejci bounced it in off Andersen from behind to make it 5-1 after Toronto’s Nazem Kadri was thrown out of the game and given a five-minute major for an elbow to Tommy Wingels‘ head.Zach Hyman scored Toronto’s only goal, and Andersen made 35 saves.Game 2 is Saturday night in Boston.PREDATORS 5, AVALANCHE 2NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Filip Forsberg scored twice in the third period and Nashville rallied to beat Colorado in Game 1 of the first-round Western Conference series.Pekka Rinne made 25 saves, including a handful on Colorado’s Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon.Austin Watson had a goal and an assist for Nashville, which has won 11 straight over Colorado. Craig Smith and Colton Sissons scored a goal apiece, and Ryan Johansen had two assists.Nikita Zadorov and Blake Comeau scored for Colorado.Game 2 is Saturday in Nashville.