Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, right, makes a stick save on shot by Vegas Golden Knights right wing Alex Tuch during the third period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Capitals down Golden Knights to even Stanley Cup final 1-1

The Washington Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 Wednesday night to even Stanley Cup final 1-1

A goal from the most unlikely source and a jaw-dropping save has the Washington Capitals back on even terms in the Stanley Cup final.

Brooks Orpik scored for the first time in 220 games and Braden Holtby made 37 stops, including a miraculous effort with two minutes to go, as the Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 on Wednesday night to level the best-of-seven series 1-1.

“A couple of bounces didn’t go our way last game,” said Holtby, whose team fell 6-4 in Monday’s opener. ”We knew if we just stuck with it, did the right things, something would go our way.”

What went their way was Orpik, a veteran defenceman whose last goal came on Feb. 16, 2016, scoring what turned out to be the winner before Holtby robbed Alex Tuch with a desperation paddle save after the puck took a weird bounce off the glass.

“To me, it was the Hockey Gods,” Washington head coach Barry Trotz said.

“Save of the year. Maybe the save of a lifetime,” Capitals forward Jay Beagle added. “It’s unreal.”

Related: Golden Knights top Capitals 6-4 in wild Game 1 of Stanley Cup final

Bumped up to the second line after No. 1 centre Evgeny Kuznetsov left with an upper-body injury in the first period, Lars Eller had a goal and two assists, while Alex Ovechkin also scored. Andre Burakovsky chipped in with two assists of his own as the Capitals won their first-ever game in a Stanley Cup final.

James Neal and Shea Theodore replied for the expansion Knights. Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 23 shots in taking the loss.

The series now switches to Washington for Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Monday. Game 5 will be back in Vegas next Thursday.

With temperatures soaring as high as 37 C in the hours leading up to the late-afternoon puck drop at T-Mobile Arena, the Capitals put in a much better effort on the heels of Monday’s sloppy performance from both teams.

“We did a good job all around on a lot of areas,” Trotz said. ”We cleaned a few things. There’s some areas that we’ve still go to adjust, but it was a step forward.”

After killing off a penalty early in the second period, Washington pushed ahead on a power play of its own at 5:38 when Ovechkin scored his 13th goal of the playoffs from a tight angle thanks to Eller’s slick cross-ice pass.

Eller then set up Orpik, who last scored in the post-season all the way back in April 2014, on a shot that struck the leg of Vegas forward Cody Eakin and bounced past Fleury at 9:41 to make it 3-1.

“Brooksy doesn’t score a lot of goals, but that was a huge one,” Eller said of the 37-year-old blue liner. ”To have success in the playoffs you need every single guy chipping in.”

Orpik wasn’t available to the media after the game because he was getting stitches from the Capitals’ medical staff.

“He’s old-school,” Washington forward T.J. Oshie said. ”To see him get rewarded with a goal at a big time, it makes me feel good.

“I imagine he feels great.”

The Knights entered Monday with a 7-1 home record in the post-season — outscoring opponents by 31-16 in the process — and made it 3-2 with 2:13 left in the second when Theodore scored his third on a seeing-eye snapshot from the point through traffic on a power play.

Vegas got a 5-on-3 man advantage for 1:09 when Tom Wilson took an interference penalty and Eller was whistled for hooking early in the third, but Holtby, who allowed five goals on 33 shots in Game 1 after posting back-to-back shutouts to close out the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference final, managed to hold the fort.

“We had good looks,” Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault said. ”We just need to be more selfish and shoot the puck. The plays were there.”

Holtby then made that diving paddle stop on Tuch that will be replayed over and over.

“Thank God he’s our goalie,” Ovechkin said.

“I’ve got to bury that,” Tuch lamented.

The Knights continued to push and pulled Fleury for an extra attacker, but Holtby and the Capitals kept them off the scoreboard the rest of the way to knot the series and wrestle away home-ice advantage.

The usual pre-game pomp at T-Mobile Arena, which includes showgirls lining the glass in the Washington end during warmups and a knight defeating an opponent in a sword battle on the ice, also featured a performance by Las Vegas band Imagine Dragons and an appearance by UFC legend Randy Couture.

The teams promised a tighter checking game after Monday’s 10-goal outburst, and Holtby and Fleury looked much better early before Neal opened the scoring at 7:58 of the first.

The winger knocked teammate Luca Sbisa’s flipped clearing attempt out of midair at the offensive blue line in front of Dmitry Orlov, who tried to knock the puck down with his glove, before stepping past the Capitals defenceman and beating Holtby for his fifth.

The Knights have scored first in all nine of their playoff home games, with each occurring in first period and six coming inside eight minutes.

Kuznetsov, who tops the post-season scoring race with 25 points, took a big hit from Brayden McNabb later in the period and crumpled to the ice holding his left arm.

The Russian centre, who skated quickly to the bench and went straight to the locker room, did not return with what the team called an upper-body injury. Trotz did not provide an update when asked about Kuznetsov’s status at his press conference.

The same way Wilson’s hit on Vegas leading scorer Jonathan Marchessault in Game 1 sparked the Knights, the collision seemed to wake up the Capitals as Eller finished off a nice passing play by scoring his sixth with 2:33 left on the clock.

With the teams playing 4-on-4, Burakovsky fed Michal Kempny, who fooled Fleury by passing to Eller for a wide-open net instead of shooting.

Eller signed a five-year, US$17.5-million contract extension in February, and now has the same amount of goals (six) in these playoffs as he did in the first 50 post-season games of his career.

“The more I’m out there, the more I feel on the puck — better flow in my game,” Eller said. “We were a little more on our toes tonight.”

Related: ‘The Stanley Cup final that was never meant to be’: Knights, Caps primed for Game 1

Notes: The Knights are the first team to make the Stanley Cup in their first season since the 1967-68 St. Louis Blues, although an expansion club was guaranteed a spot in the final that year after the NHL expanded from six to 12 franchises. … The Capitals’ only other trip the Cup came in 1998 when they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings.

___

Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

 

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury lies on the ice after stopping a shot by Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom, of Sweden, during the first period in Game 2 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday, May 30, 2018, in Las Vegas. (Bruce Bennett/Pool via AP)

Vegas Golden Knights left wing William Carrier, left, and right wing Ryan Reaves joke around during practice Tuesday, May 29, 2018, in Las Vegas. Game 2 of the Stanley Cup NHL hockey finals between Vegas and the Washington Capitals is scheduled for Wednesday. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Just Posted

More fencing installed along CN tracks

City using federal grant to help pay for cost

‘Police are ready’ for legal pot, say Canadian chiefs

But Canadians won’t see major policing changes as pot becomes legal

Man surrenders after Terrace drive-by shooting

Police say shooting was targeted, public not at risk

Illegal dumping pushes BC Conservation to the tipping point

Terrace office may bring violators to court to seek higher penalties

Eden Robinson talks Trickster Drift in Terrace

More than 160 people packed into the Art Gallery to see the award-winning author

Video: An up-close look at beluga whales in Hudson Bay

An up-close look as some belugas greet whale watchers off the coast of Churchill, Manitoba

Canucks: Pettersson in concussion protocol, Beagle out with broken forearm

Head coach Travis Green called the hit ‘a dirty play’

5 tips for talking to your kids about cannabis

Health officials recommend sharing a harm reduction-related message.

NHL players say Canada’s legalization of marijuana won’t impact them

NHL players say the legalization of marijuana in Canada won’t change how they go about their business.

Automated cars could kill wide range of jobs, federal documents say

Internal government documents show that more than one million jobs could be lost to automated vehicles, with ripple effects far beyond the likeliest professions.

Private marijuana stores should shut down, Mike Farnworth says

B.C. has approved 62 licences, but they still need local approval

HPV vaccine does not lead to riskier sex among teen girls: UBC

Girls are less likely to have sex now than they were a decade ago

Koreas agree to break ground on inter-Korean railroad

The rival Koreas are holding high-level talks Monday to discuss further engagement amid a global diplomatic push to resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea.

Flash floods kill at least 7 people in southwest France

Flash floods have left several people dead in southwest France, with roads swept away and streams become raging torrents as the equivalent of several months of rain fell overnight, authorities said Monday.

Most Read