Just one win separates the Capitals from the Stanley Cup after a dominant 6-2 Game 4 win over the Vegas Golden Knights.
The Caps have now won three straight and have looked progressively more impressive in each win.
Here are five reasons why they won Game 4.
James Neal channels Esa Tikkanen
This will be a game Neal wants to forget.
Vegas should have taken the early first period lead on a power play opportunity. The Golden Knights pulled off a nice setup with Tomas Tatar passing right to Erik Haula who passed it back left to Neal. That left Holtby helpless and the net wide open for Neal…but he knocked it off the far post.
Three goals for the Caps later and Washington took a 3-0 lead into the locker room after the first period.
The World Cup starts on June 14 and the Caps were certainly in the soccer spirit with all their fancy footwork. Oshie kicked a rebound from Fleury onto his stick and buried it into the net for the Caps’ first goal of the night. Later in the first, Devante Smith-Pelly caught a pass off his skate which he kicked to his stick and roofed past Fleury.
Devante Smith-Pelly coming up big again
Speaking of Smith-Pelly’s goal, that was the backbreaker. Not only did his goal put the Caps up 3-0 in the first period—again after Neal should have put Vegas up 1-0—but it also came with just 21 seconds left in the first period.
A one-goal deficit is disappointing. A two-goal deficit is still within reach. A three-goal deficit right at the end of the period? That’s a killer.
Can I interest you in a 3-0 special teams advantage?
The Caps did just about everything well in Game 4 except for the four power plays they gave Vegas. Wilson and Kuznetsov’s penalties were particularly egregious. Wilson’s came in the offensive zone away from the puck as he cross-checked Nate Schmidt while Kuznetsov was caught tripping on the power play.
The good news is that Washington’s penalty kill was tremendous. Except for Neal’s opportunity which would result in a goal 99 times out of 100, the penalty kill gave Vegas nothing to work with.
The Caps finished the game with four penalty kills and three power play goals on five opportunities.
Kempny’s exclamation point
Despite a dominant effort by Washington, the Golden Knights battled back in the third with goals from Neal and Reilly Smith. That cut the lead to 4-2 and the ghost of playoffs past began to dance in front of the eyes of every Caps fan.
Just 1:13 later, however, Michal Kempny buried a puck behind Fleury off a play set up by Oshie and Nicklas Backstrom. That goal ended whatever hope of a comeback Vegas had left.