They’ve said all the right things in the run-up to Wednesday, portraying confidence even as their chances continue to dwindle in the post-season.
And when the push came, the Golden Knights showed that they still had some fighting left.
Faced with a must-see scenario, the Knights refused to fold their tents after a baffling goal-direction change early in the second half and beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 in overtime in front of a declared crowd of 18,240 at the T-Mobile Arena.
Defensesman Shea Theodore danced through the Washington defense and turned a backhand on Capitals goalkeeper Ilya Samsonov in 2:09 of overtime for the winning goal.
“At this point in the season, we need to win to give ourselves a chance,” Tudor said. “Definitely sigh of relief by scoring that goal. Hopefully this is just an impetus for how we play in that third period going forward to give ourselves the best chance to make the post-season.”
The Knights cut a losing slip in two games and kept their playoff hopes from spiraling with four games remaining.
They advanced three points behind Los Angeles to finish third in the Pacific division and are two points behind Dallas in the second wild card. The Knights have played one game more than Dallas and face the Superstars on Tuesday.
After Monday’s devastating loss to New Jersey, the Knights survived a third inning back and forth to halt Washington’s two-game winning streak.
Chandler Stephenson, who won the Stanley Cup with the Capitals in 2018, scored in a tough 2:54 game of the third inning to put the Knights ahead 3-2. This goal came less than a minute after Evgeny Dadonov equalized the match with a right-wing shot that passed through Samsonov.
But Alex Ovechkin scored 3-3 with his 50th goal and the second in the match when he beat goalkeeper Logan Thompson with a kick from the right wing before 6:24 from the left in the standings.
“Really proud of the way the guys handled everything,” said defender Alec Martinez. “Obviously we had some misfortunes throughout the match. It was a bit back and forth. It obviously feels good, but the job is not over yet.”
Here’s what makes the game special:
1. switch it
Robin Lehner got another chance to carry the Knights in the final weeks of the season despite being criticized by coach Pete Debore after Monday’s loss.
“We pay him to start games like this,” DeBoer said. “It’s the most important time of the year.”
But Lehner lasted for 20 minutes, stopping 12 of 13 shots in the first period before being replaced by Thompson. Washington also had a goal that was canceled by replaying the video.
Thompson had no chance against Ovechkin on the second shot he faced but finished 13 saves on 15 shots. In the third period, Thompson stayed with Ovechkin on a breakup and prevented him from getting a clean shot.
“As a goalkeeper partner, you don’t like being in this situation,” Thompson said. “Robin is such a huge part of our team. He loves everyone so you never want to see that. Just glad we got two points tonight.”
2. Stay well
The slow start hit the Knights recently, and they allowed the first goal to be scored for the fifth game in a row. Ovechkin’s leadership moved from the top of the left circle past Lehner, and Evgeny Kuznetsov was there to cash in on the loose disc at 6:18 of the first period.
After the initial shock wore off, the Knights found a reaction with Martinez’s equalizing goal and a successful offside challenge at 4:35 of the first.
Defensesman Jon Carlson finished off a solo dash for the capitals, but Washington winger Tom Wilson was ahead of the play as Ovechkin carried the disc into the area and the officials turned the target.
The Knights 5 vs. 5 Coach Challenges with video coach Dave Rojowski leading the effort. They were also on the right side of the review initiated by Toronto’s NHL hockey operations.
“It was great for us, and that was huge,” Debor said of Rogowski. “If we go there, getting out of the game so early against a good team like this would be a big, big gap. It’s a big and important call from him.”
3. Delivers special teams
The Knights Force game has failed several times at key points in the season. It came at a crucial time against the capitals.
Stevenson positioned himself in the hole and parried Max Pasuritti’s shot off the right wing.
The Knights finished 1 for 2 with the man advantage after having been 1 for 26 since March 26, which finished second in the league.
“Our season is on the line. So we switched lines, and I thought we got some spark from the Dadonov goal and the PP goal really ignited the build,” Debor said. “That was a huge momentum swing for us.”
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