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|Winning a Stanley Cup isn’t meant to be easy Ronald Acuna Jr. Atlanta Braves Jersey , something that even the novice hockey fans in Las Vegas now surely understand.
No need to tell it to the Washington Capitals. They’ve spent 43 seasons chasing the elusive Cup, only to find an expansion team – of all things – in the way of finally ending the drought.
The battle for hockey supremacy heads to the nation’s capital all tied up 1-1 after a pair of games as entertaining as anything on the Las Vegas Strip. The goals keep coming and so do the hits, including one Wednesday night on Evgeny Kuznetsov that both knocked him out of the game and seemed to wake Washington out of its daze.
Their top playoff scorer out, the Caps rallied for three straight goals that stopped – at least for a moment – a team that has been virtually unstoppable throughout the playoffs.
”It galvanized us as a group,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said. ”I think it might be a turning point for us.”
On a night when Alex Ovechkin scored the first Stanley Cup Final goal of his 13-year NHL career to give the Caps a lead they somehow managed to hold onto even while being outplayed and outshot by the Knights in the third period, Washington won a final-round game for the first time ever to make the flight back home a lot sweeter.
For the Capitals it means service held, with the next two games in far friendlier confines at home.
For the Knights, it was a golden opportunity gone awry.
They were 7-1 in the playoffs at home, 11-1 overall when scoring the first goal. So when James Neal scored barely eight minutes into the game, the party was on.
And then http://www.titansauthorizedshops.com/authentic-harold-landry-jersey , suddenly, it was off. At least for now.
Credit some of that to the resilience of the Caps, who were down a goal when Kuznetsov was knocked out of the game. Give a tip of the hat to Ovechkin, too, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period.
But when the story of this Cup Final is finally written it may hinge on a hit by Brayden McNabb on Kuznetsov as he had the puck along the boards late in the first period. McNabb slammed into Kuznetsov with a high check and Kuznetsov immediately bent over holding his arm with what appeared to be a wrist injury.
Another team might have folded in front of the raucous crowd of 18,702. But the Caps have been resilient all the way through the playoffs, and this game was no exception.
”It was all about commitment. We blocked shots and played for each other,” forward Nicklas Backstrom said. ”It’s good to win and go back to Washington.”
On a 98-degree day in Las Vegas, the action on the ice was as hot as the weather outside. The Knights dominated play at times and outshot the Caps 39-26, but could not deliver on a 5-on-3 power play in the scoreless third period.
When Alex Tuch was denied on a spectacular stick save with 1:59 to play by Braden Holtby Cheap Josh Allen Jersey , the Knights would not be lucky on this night in the biggest game of chance on the Strip. Their Game 1 win, after all, included the Caps’ Lars Eller missing a wide-open net from point-blank range in the final minutes.
”To me it was the hockey gods evening it up from the last game,” Trotz said. ”Once he made that save I knew we were going to win the game.”
Las Vegas pulled out all the stops to make the first two games as memorable off the ice as they have been on the ice. The Imagine Dragons – a Vegas Born group – sang just before the puck dropped and a flyover by the Air Force’s latest F-35 jets shook the building, as did the applause later between periods when the pilots appeared in front of the Knight’s faux castle to cheer the team on.
But just as Game 1 seemed to shift in the Knights’ favor after Jonathan Marchessault was knocked to the ice on what appeared to be a late hit by Washington’s Tom Wilson, this game seemed to turn on that hit by McNabb with the Knights up 1-0.
Not only did Washington score three straight goals, one of them came from the player who must be spectacular if the Capitals are forced to play without Kuznetsov for any length of time in the finals.
Ovechkin has toiled for the Capitals since being picked first in the 2004 draft, but had never played in a Stanley Cup Final until Game 1 – and never scored in one until Wednesday.
”He’s the heart and soul of this team,” Washington defenseman John Carlson said. ”He does so much and doesn’t get credit. We love him to death. He’s our leader and it’s nice to see him get that big goal for us.”
For the Knights it was a rare whiff in a season like no other. They’ve been one of the great stories in sports, an expansion team in its first season playing for the championship of the NHL.
But every great story needs a great ending Cecil Cooper Milwaukee Brewers Jersey , and for the Knights to write one they’re now going to have to win at least one game on the road.
”It’s the Stanley Cup final, it’s little things,” said Knights forward Erik Haula. ”Nobody said it’s gonna be a 4-0 series. It’s gonna be ups and downs. We’ve been here before, we’ve been good on the road. Just put this behind us, just learn from your mistake.”
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg(at)ap.org or
MILWAUKEE — Ryan Braun is expected to be back in Milwaukee and available Thursday night when the Brewers open a four-game series with the St. Louis Cardinals at Miller Park.
Braun left the team Thursday morning for Los Angeles, where he received a cryotherapy injection in his right thumb — a procedure he has undergone four times since first receiving treatment on the thumb following the 2014 season.
“It started bugging him the last couple of days so he flew out (Thursday) morning),” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s something that he expects from time to time. When it starts (bothering him), we try to get in front of it and knock it out right away.”
Braun was expected to miss Milwaukee’s game Wednesday night at Pittsburgh, but Mother Nature made the point moot as rain forced cancellation of the finale of a three-game series with the Pirates.
As a result, the Brewers will take the field Thursday virtually tied with the Chicago Cubs for first place in the National League Central with the Cardinals lingering 4 1/2 games behind.
St. Louis will try to cut into that deficit behind right-hander Carlos Martinez (3-3 http://www.saintsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-marcus-davenport-jersey , 2.73 ERA), who has struggled since returning from the disabled list back on June 5.
In three starts since then, Martinez is 0-1 with a 7.11 ERA. He struck out 15 while walking 18 in 12 2/3 innings — failing to get past the fifth in any of those outings — while opponents have batted .306 against him with a .908 OPS.
“He’s got to do something different, I know,” manager Mike Matheny admitted. “(Pitching coach Mike) Maddux has talked to him about getting locked in. It just looks different. We need him to be like he can be.”
Martinez was off to a strong start before the injury. He bounced back from a rough season-opening outing against the New York Mets to post a 0.99 ERA over his next seven starts. He still had a 1.77 ERA after the Minnesota Twins tagged him for four runs over five innings in a 7-1 loss on May 8 but was placed on the disabled list the next day with a strained forearm.
“Right when he got hurt, he was as good as anybody in the league,” said Matheny. “We’ve just got to get him back there, that’s all.
Martinez has faced Milwaukee twice this season, dominating the Brewers in each appearance. He held them to a run over six innings in a 5-3 victory on April 10 in St. Louis and fell two outs short of a complete game shutout on April 4 at Miller Park, where he is 4-4 with a 2.36 ERA in 16 career appearances Alex Cappa Color Rush Jersey , including 10 starts.
Overall, he’s 6-4 with a 1.95 ERA in his career against Milwaukee and has held the Brewers to two runs or fewer in 10 of his last 14 starts against the Brewers.
Because of the rainout in Pittsburgh, left-hander Brent Suter (7-4, 4.30) will get an extra day of rest and start for Milwaukee on Thursday, with Junior Guerra, Chase Anderson and Jhoulys Chacin rounding out the series.
Suter is 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in two starts against St. Louis this season, and 1-2 with a 4.10 ERA in eight career appearances (four starts) against the Cardinals..
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