While not at its best, Vegas has certainly had opportunities to rewrite the script, most notably when Holtby robbed Alex Tuch late in Game 2 on a miraculous stick save to seal a Washington victory that evened the series. Gifted two-way defensemen like the Capitals' John Carlson and Golden Knights' Nate Schmidt find a way to do a little bit of everything, but they don't have the size and strength of the 6-foot-3, 217-pound Orpik, who knows what his job is. If it wasn't for a huge mistake by Holtby in Game 3, they would have been shutout.
The Knights, meanwhile, will have to do something only one other team - 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs - have done in the Cup final: win three straight after falling behind 3-1.
Part of that is because of the Capitals, who after losing in Game 1 have emerged as the better team in nearly every category.
Kuznetsov was a wizard with the puck and had four assists. "So they're quite valuable in series where there's a lot of net pressure and a lot of low play".
The Mug will be in the house for Game 5 on Thursday in Vegas. In Game 4, he had that locked-in, can't be beat look about him in goal for Washington, and even with a little luck and some goal posts hit, Holtby was strong, sharp, on his angles and nearly impossible to beat. "The Post" is a symbol of the frustration Vegas has experienced in this series after winning 12 of 15 in roaring to the Western Conference title.
Who knows if things would have been different on Monday night if Neal put the puck in the net? The average game (per 60 minutes) sees Vegas generate about 10.5 risky shot attempts per 60 minutes.
Prior to the Washington onslaught, Vegas easily could have scored three times, but instead rolled snake eyes at the worst moment imaginable. Then, Erik Haula whisked a cross-ice pass to Neal on the left side of the net, and Holtby was slow to react.
"We obviously got some breaks at the start of the game", Holtby said. "Honestly, I thought it was in".
"It's not good enough from us", Neal said.
While Vegas rang several shots off posts, the Capitals seized just about every opportunity as they have throughout this surprising run. It's done with. It's not the first time it's happened.
The must-win Golden Knights arrived on time, created chances, but couldn't get one to go.
"You can't feel sorry for yourself. It's not exactly fun, but you gotta do it if you really want to win", Devante Smith-Pelly said. "That's what we'll focus on".
I think the Capitals would happily accept that fate, whereas most Penguins fans are probably already shuddering at the thought of the denizens of D.C. partying through a muggy June night in the near future. "It wasn't easy taking all the losses, but you kept going with the idea that somehow you were going to get better, that things would get better at some point". In 14 career games against Washington, the Slovak forward has 9 points, including multi-goal games in both of his matchups with the Caps this season. Jonathan Marchessault and William Karlsson of the Golden Knights follow at +2200 and +2800, respectively.
But the outcome by then was all but decided.
The Golden Knights made the game interesting in the final period. Fleury came into the final as the Conn Smythe front-runner for playoff MVP honors but looked human again by allowing six goals on 23 shots at a defense that has often left him vulnerable. Only 18 men in National Hockey League history have scored more goals than Ovechkin's 607, but he's never been considered a two-way player like his chief rival, Sidney Crosby.