Alex Tuch collected the skittering puck with absolutely nothing between him and the tying goal with two minutes left in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
Braden Holtby reacted with pure instinct.
Washington’s goalie stretched back and lunged to his right with his stick Kyle Freeland Colorado Rockies Jersey , thrusting the paddle into the exact 4-inch slot of air through which Tuch’s shot was headed for the net.
”Luckily it hit me,” Holtby said with a shrug.
The Washington goalie’s coaches and teammates weren’t quite so calm about a save that will go down in Capitals history as the key to a 3-2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Wednesday night, evening the series at one game apiece.
The win was the Caps’ first-ever Stanley Cup Final victory – and the save might be a catalyst to even bigger things.
”To me, it was the hockey gods,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. ”They evened it up from the last game. Great save. You could see the emotion on our bench. Once he made that save, I knew we were going to win the game.”
Holtby made 37 saves, but he got help from earthly sources as well. Alex Ovechkin scored a power-play goal, his first in a Final, Brooks Orpik ended a personal 220-game goal drought with the eventual winner, and Lars Eller added a goal and two assists.
”We refocus and pick each other up and that’s a sign of a good team,” Holtby said. ”That’s one of our strengths.”
Game 3 is Saturday night in Washington. The Caps are just 4-5 at home in the postseason http://www.seahawksauthorizedshops.com/authentic-dontae-johnson-jersey , but they’ll ride a wave of momentum after going into the Golden Knights’ daunting home arena and taking away home-ice advantage in Washington’s first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.
After getting battered in the Knights’ 6-4 series-opening win, Holtby made several big saves throughout Game 2, coming up particularly big while Washington killed a 5-on-3 disadvantage for 1:09 earlier in the third period. He capped his energetic performance with that jaw-dropping stick save on Tuch with 1:59 to play.
”Holts just makes the save of the year,” Washington forward Jay Beagle said. ”Maybe the save of a lifetime. It’s unreal.”
The T-Mobile Arena crowd was stunned, but after several months of watching this expansion team push through every obstacle, the Knights couldn’t get around Holtby’s stick.
”Thank God he’s our goalie,” Ovechkin said. ”He’s over there when we need him, and it was probably the save of the year for sure.”
Washington overcame another big blow when it lost leading scorer Evgeny Kuznetsov to an upper-body injury in the first period after a big hit from Vegas defenseman Brayden McNabb, but the Caps avoided any hotheaded retaliation and concentrated on a gritty effort that was enough to even the series.
James Neal and Shea Theodore scored and Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots for the upstart Knights, who couldn’t summon their usual clutch magic, even with lengthy man advantages. Thanks to Holtby’s 15 saves http://www.patriotsauthorizedshop.com/authentic-trent-brown-jersey , Vegas finally went scoreless in the third for the first time in six periods in this series.
Washington handed the Golden Knights only their second home defeat – the first in regulation – in Vegas’ nine postseason games.
”I think it’s really important that we take a step back and take a deep breath and know that you’re not going to win this series in two games,” Vegas defenseman Nate Schmidt said. ”We’re a special group. We can go out and win games on the road. We’ve done it all playoffs.”
So have the Capitals, who improved to 9-3 on the road after two games in this frequently chaotic series.
The Caps have made the playoffs in 13 of 19 seasons since their only other trip to the Final in 1998, but hadn’t managed to get their fans back to the final round until this year. Capital One Arena in downtown Washington was packed with red-clad fans watching Game 2 on the videoboards.
The temperature on the Las Vegas Strip spiked to triple digits in the hours before Game 2, likely making it the hottest Final game in NHL history. But the heat didn’t fry the spirits of the fans who filled the plaza next to the arena to capacity before the puck dropped, continuing this gambling mecca’s fanatical support of its first major pro sports team.
Shortly after Neal opened the scoring for Vegas in Game 2, Kuznetsov went straight to the dressing room after absorbing a high check from McNabb. The game immediately took on a nastier tone, and the teams played 4-on-4 hockey moments later after a prolonged scrum led to two penalties.
Trotz gave no postgame update on Kuznetsov’s condition.
”(That hit) galvanized us as a group,” Trotz said. ”This group has learned so much. They’ve gotten so resilient. This group has had everything thrown at them, and they just say, `You know what? We’re going to push on.”’
Washington attacked and evened it shortly afterward with a goal from Eller http://www.49ersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-jonathan-cooper-jersey , who had failed to hit an open net on a rushed play for a potential tying goal late in Game 1.
Washington’s excellent power play finally got a chance early in the second period, and Ovechkin scored a vintage goal with his powerful shot from a sharp angle. The Russian superstar led the NHL with 49 goals in the regular season and added 12 more in the Eastern Conference playoffs before scoring the first Stanley Cup Final goal of his 13-year, 1,121-game NHL career.
The Caps then got a thoroughly unlikely contribution from Orpik, whose deflected shot bounced fortuitously off the ice and beat Fleury. The gr Third time was the charm for James Harden.
The Houston Rockets star was voted the NBA’s Most Valuable Player after twice being runner-up, beating out four-time winner LeBron James and Anthony Davis of the Pelicans at the NBA Awards.
Harden joined Michael Jordan as the only players to average at least 20 points, eight assists, five rebounds and 1.7 steals in a season.
He led the league in scoring, 3-pointers and 50-point games with four while helping the Rockets to an NBA-leading 65 wins.
James didn’t attend the show in Barker Hangar at the Santa Monica Airport amid frenzied speculation about his future. He has until Friday to tell the Cavaliers if he will pick up his $35.6 million option for next season or opt for free agency.
Harden, who is from Los Angeles, led his mother on stage before he accepted the trophy from Commissioner Adam Silver.
Dwane Casey won the NBA’s Coach of the Year award for his work with his former team Baker Mayfield Jersey Elite , the Toronto Raptors. He was fired last month and has since become coach of the Detroit Pistons.
Casey led the Raptors to the No. 1 seed in the East for the first time in franchise history. Toronto won a team-record 59 games. Casey coached the East in the All-Star Game for the first time.
SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) – Oscar Robertson commends the off-court activism of today’s NBA players, although the Hall of Famer wonders why more white athletes aren’t speaking out, too.
Robertson received the Lifetime Achievement Award from presenters Charles Barkley and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the NBA Awards.
Robertson is the career leader in triple-doubles and was the first player to average one for a season. His antitrust case against the NBA also ushered in free agency for players, which Robertson said was his most important assist.
The 79-year-old former guard who starred at Crispus Attucks High in Indianapolis and in college at Cincinnati before going to the NBA said it’s time for players to speak out about politics and education, among other issues.
”But the only thing that really bothers me is where are the white athletes when this is happening?” he said backstage. ”This is not a black athlete problem. You see injustice in the world. It’s all around you.”
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) – Game 1 of the College World Series finals between Arkansas and Oregon State was postponed until Tuesday night because of rain – just the latest in a line of delays caused by the weather this year.
”In my 16 years of being involved with this championship, this has been the most challenging College World Series as it relates to inclement weather,” NCAA director of championships and alliances Randy Buhr said.
Rain fell most of the day, and officials announced late in the afternoon that the game would be delayed. The decision to postpone came 90 minutes after the scheduled first pitch.
Arkansas (47-19) will start Blaine Knight (13-0) against Luke Heimlich (16-2) of Oregon State (53-11-1) on Tuesday.
CHICAGO (AP) – A federal appeals court has backed an NCAA rule requiring most football players who transfer schools to sit out a year.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago upheld a lower-court finding that NCAA transfer rules don’t violate U.S. antitrust laws.
Monday’s decision was in a lawsuit brought by a former punter for Northern Illinois University, Peter Deppe. The ruling focuses on a requirement that most Division I football players who transfer to another school must sit out a year.
Deppe’s lawyers argued the Indianapolis-based NCAA enforces the rule primarily to ensure transfers don’t hurt the quality of the football and thereby cut into lucrative revenues. They say that makes it an unreasonable restraint on trade.
But the 7th Circuit rejected that. Its unanimous opinion accepted the NCAA’s concern that easy player transfers would undermine ”the amateur character of college athletics.”
A statement from the NCAA welcomed the ruling http://www.jetsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-trenton-cannon-jersey , saying it was consistent with prior court rulings that recognize ”the NCAA’s ability to preserve college sports.”
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – UConn President Susan Herbst told Kevin Ollie she was upholding his firing because the former men’s basketball coach had a pattern of breaking NCAA rules and committed serious violations, according to a letter obtained by The Associated Press.
The school released the June 19 letter from Herbst to Ollie on Monday in response to open records requests from the AP and other news organizations.
Ollie has asserted that the violations which led to his firing in March were minimal and isolated.
Herbst denies that idea in the letter, writing that ”eventually even a series of `isolated’ or `de mimimis’ violations can become a pattern of non-compliance, which is what occurred in the Men’s Basketball program under your leadership.”
LONDON (AP) – Rafael Nadal is back at No. 1 in the ATP rankings, retaking the top spot from Roger Federer after just one week.
Monday’s new order is the sixth change of the year at No. 1, the most since there were eight in 1999.
The record is 10 switches at No. 1 in 1983.
Federer still is expected to be seeded No. 1 for Wimbledon, where he won his record eighth championship a year ago. The grass-court Grand Slam tournament’s seedings are scheduled to be announced Wednesday. Play begins next week.
Nadal holds a 50-point edge over Federer in the rankings and will hold onto No. 1 for at least the next three weeks.
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