Bruins

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov lead Capitals over Golden Knights, 3-1

capitals.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Photo

Ovechkin, Kuznetsov lead Capitals over Golden Knights, 3-1

WASHINGTON - Alex Ovechkin went airborne, Evgeny Kuznetsov flapped his arms like a bird of prey and the Washington Capitals are flying high, just two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup.

Ovechkin dived to score his 14th goal of the playoffs and raised his arms in joy when Kuznetsov beat Marc-Andre Fleury and broke out his signature bird celebration in a second period the two Russians will long remember. Led by their two best players, the Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-1 Saturday night to take a 2-1 lead in the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Final.

Fired up in the first Cup Final game in Washington since 1998, the Capitals unloaded chance after chance on Fleury, who made 23 saves but couldn't backstop a frazzled, disjointed team that lost two games in a row for the first time in the playoffs. At the other end, Braden Holtby gifted Tomas Nosek a goal by giving the puck away but stopped the other 21 shots he faced from the Golden Knights, who looked nothing like the winners of 13 of their first 16 playoff games through the first three rounds.

The Golden Knights' historic run in its inaugural season is now in danger of coming to an end with Game 4 back in Washington on Monday night. The Capitals are seeking their first title in their 43-year history.

Holtby was there when the Capitals needed him, but they didn't need him much because they were on the attack for much of the game. Fleury stopped Ovechkin on a 2-on-1 rush early and the superstar captain was at his best early.

In his first home Cup Final game, Ovechkin attempted eight shots in the first period and scored a goal that seemed inevitable. It came 1:10 into the second period when Ovechkin went full-extension over Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb to reach the rebound and backhanded the puck past Fleury.

Ovechkin's 14th goal of the playoffs matched John Druce's franchise record set in 1990 and tied him for the league lead in these playoffs.

His joy overflowed on the bench when Kuznetsov showed his injured left arm is just fine by scoring on a perfect wrist shot on an odd-man rush. Ovechkin looked to the ceiling with his arms extended as he was hugged by Lars Eller.

"He's so emotional about playing for the Cup," coach Barry Trotz said of Ovechkin. "You can tell by the expressions on his face all the time, his emotion. One thing you can see is Alex keeps his emotions on his sleeve. It's on the outside. It's not on the inside. You know exactly what he's thinking."

Capitals fans who have watched heartbreak after playoff heartbreak easily could've been thinking the worst when Vegas scored early in the third period. Holtby - well-aware of the Golden Knights' ability to cross up opposing goaltenders - had his puck-handling attempt intercepted by Bellemare. The puck skittered to Nosek for an easy goal.

Vegas built some momentum, but Devante Smith-Pelly gave the Capitals an insurance goal with 6:07 left - his fourth of the playoffs - after Jay Beagle took the puck away from Shea Theodore on the forecheck and found his teammate skating in alone on Fleury.

"I've always loved the playoffs," Smith-Pelly said. "I love scoring the big goals. I don't know what it is, but these kinds of games are the most fun to play in."

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE

Haggerty: It was easy to love Don Cherry, but there's no defending him this time

don_cherry_53019.jpg
File Photo

Haggerty: It was easy to love Don Cherry, but there's no defending him this time

Hockey Night in Canada analyst Don Cherry has been in hot water before with his controversial takes on "Coach’s Corner," but "Grapes" took it one step too far this past weekend and is done after nearly 40 years entertaining hockey fans between periods with his bombastic analysis.

It’s really too bad because Grapes found his niche on Hockey Night in Canada as an influential, old school combination of Archie Bunker and former NHL head coach while entertaining millions in Canada during national hockey broadcasts. He spoke directly to hockey fans and had the puck pulpit like nobody else has in the history of the sport.

His colorful wardrobe was as flamboyant as his opinions, and he always straddled the line between sports and real-world issues while never wavering in his vocal, fervent support of the military.

People at NHL rinks in Canada huddled weekly around the press box televisions on Saturday night to see what Cherry and Ron McLean had to say during the first intermission of games, and players themselves waited to hear whether they got attaboys or chastisement from the legendary hockey  voice.

Unfortunately for Cherry, the impassioned pleas for supporting the troops for this week’s Remembrance Day became his ultimate undoing. It wasn’t his pleas for everyday Canadians to wear symbolic poppies that was the problem, though.

Instead, it was singling out groups that Cherry didn’t see wearing the poppies.

"You people ... that come here, whatever it is. You love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that," Cherry said on Saturday night. "These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

Clearly nobody argues with Cherry’s wish that more people show symbolic support for the troops, but it was his reference to “you people…that come here” that’s divisive, offensive and certainly pointed toward immigrants to Canada.

It created a media firestorm over the last few days that prompted a public apology from Cherry’s partner, McLean, on Sunday and pushed many to finally call for Cherry’s removal after a long history of xenophobic references during his Coach’s Corner segments. This time, Cherry’s bosses couldn’t simply let it blow over and it resulted in a change at what’s been a Hockey Night in Canada staple since the early 1980s.

“It has been decided it is the right time for him to immediately step down," said Sportsnet President Bart Yabsley. "During the broadcast, he made divisive remarks that do not represent our values or what we stand for.

"Don is synonymous with hockey and has played an integral role in growing the game. We would like to thank Don for his contributions to hockey and sports broadcasting in Canada."

This humble hockey writer always defended Cherry because a.) he was entertaining and colorful with his hockey commentary, and that always makes for the kind of good TV that the NHL needs in its coverage and b.) scolding the 85-year-old Cherry for his views was akin to scolding one of my grandparents that had a hopelessly outdated view of society that was never going to change, or evolve, regardless of the circumstance.

But the comment was a bridge too far that rightly offended a lot of fair-minded people, and elicited some heartfelt reactions from friends and colleagues like The Athletic’s Arpon Basu and Hockey Night in Canada’s David Amber on Twitter.

There was no defending Grapes this time around, and instead, it’s another lesson to everybody that free speech doesn’t mean it’s also consequence-free speech. Cherry can continue to speak his mind and perpetuate his antiquated worldview, but he’s no longer going to enjoy the Hockey Night in Canada platform that he clearly took for granted on Saturday night with the clumsy way he offended so many hockey-loving people in the US and Canada.

None of it makes Cherry a bad guy as much as it makes him a bit of a relic that probably wasn’t meant to be on a national broadcast anymore. The shame of it all is twofold. It opens up old wounds for many people that feel like they simply want to belong and have bought wholeheartedly into the “Hockey is for Everyone” mantra championed by the NHL.

And it also leaves a giant void in the iconic Hockey Night in Canada broadcast with Cherry’s bombastic personality now missing, and nobody in the hockey world that’s going to be able to step into those dapper Don shoes anytime soon. It’s a bad situation all around, but one that almost felt inevitable given Cherry’s attitudes in a world that needs more understanding, tolerance and togetherness than ever before.

It’s just a shame it all had to end on such a sour note for a hockey voice that provided decades of entertainment to puck fans everywhere.

MORE HAGGS: Sloppy play catching up with the Bruins>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

urho_vaakanainen_bruins.jpg
File photo

With Torey Krug down, Urho Vaakanainen called up to fill void on Bruins back end

BRIGHTON, Mass. — The Bruins have called up Urho Vaakanainen from Providence on Monday and that, unfortunately, probably means the B’s will be without injured Torey Krug for the time being.

The 20-year-old Vaakanainen skated with Connor Clifton as part of the third defense pairing during Monday’s practice at Warrior Ice Arena after his recall from Providence, and Bruce Cassidy said afterward that it’s a game-time decision between Vaakanainen and Steve Kampfer to fill Torey Krug’s vacant spot.

The best bet is that it will be Vaakanainen, given his ability to play big minutes, play equally at both ends and move the puck with his excellent skating ability.

Vaakanainen was off to a slow start with two assists in 15 games this season for the P-Bruins and wasn’t particularly sharp in training camp this time around for Boston after breaking camp with the team a year ago. Bruce Cassidy also mentioned that the 2017 first-round pick had some work to do with his practice habits, but that’s nothing new as young guys like Charlie McAvoy have also gone through that learning curve when it comes to Cassidy’s fast-paced practice sessions.

“The 12 forwards will be the guys that were out there and we’ve got a decision to make on the back end between [Steve] Kampfer and [Urho] Vaakanainen,” said Cassidy of Vaakanainen, who had both high and low moments while putting up four goals and 14 points in 30 games last season for the P-Bruins. “He’s played better, defended better. I think early on he was getting stuck out wide. I don’t know if that’s a European-sized rink issue or just an issue because of the way they play over there, but it showed in some goals against where he was getting beaten to the middle [of the ice].

“We need to make sure that is buttoned up if he’s in the lineup. He’s been moving the puck better and just more engaged in the game. He’s been practicing hard too and becoming a better pro, so all good things and his game is falling into place as well.”

Here are the projected line combos and D-pairings with both Krug and Jake DeBrusk out for Tuesday night’s game against the Panthers, but not ruled out for Friday night's big game against the Maple Leafs.

FORWARD LINES

Brad Marchand Patrice Bergeron David Pastrnak
Danton Heinen David Krejci Charlie Coyle
Anders Bjork Par Lindholm Zach Senyshyn
Joakim Nordstrom Sean Kuraly Chris Wagner

DEFENSIVE PAIRINGS

Zdeno Chara Charlie McAvoy
Matt Grzelcyk Brandon Carlo
Urho Vaakanainen Connor Clifton

STARTING GOALIE

Tuukka Rask

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.