NBC Sports’ exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final began tonight on NBC, as the expansion Vegas Golden Knights defeated the Washington Capitals in Game 1 of the series, 6-4, in Las Vegas. Vegas’ fourth line combined to score three goals in the third period, including two goals by Tomas Nosek, as the Golden Knights defeated the Washington Capitals after trailing 4-3 early in the final period.
Host Mike Tirico opened coverage of Game 1 from the castle perched high inside T-Mobile Arena. Six-time Emmy Award-winning play-by-play commentator Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick, U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame member and analyst Eddie Olczyk, and Emmy Award-winning ‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst Pierre McGuire had the call from Las Vegas. This marks the 12th consecutive year that Emrick, Olczyk and McGuire have combined to call the Stanley Cup Final for NBC Sports.
Pre-game coverage began on NBCSN at 6 p.m. ET with a two-hour edition of NHL Live. Host Liam McHugh anchored pre-game, intermission and post-game coverage on-site, alongside analysts and former players Mike Milbury and Keith Jones. In addition, Kathryn Tappen and Paul Burmeister hosted pre-game and post-game coverage from outside sets in Las Vegas, capturing the scene amongst the fans alongside analysts and former players Jeremy Roenick, Brian Boucher, and Anson Carter.
As part of tonight’s pre-game coverage, Olczyk went “Inside-the-Crease” with Marc-Andre Fleury for an on-ice interview. Olczyk was Fleury’s first NHL head coach in Pittsburgh in 2003. Fleury discussed the Golden Knights’ improbable inaugural season, as well as his transition back to a No. 1 role after serving as a backup behind Matt Murray in Pittsburgh.
In addition, Tirico interviewed Alex Ovechkin about what it means to finally reach the Stanley Cup Final, and what’s made this year’s team different from past Presidents’ Trophy-winning Capitals squads that had higher expectations.
NHL Live included: a segment with long-time broadcaster and Las Vegas resident Brent Musburger, who joined Tappen on-set to discuss Vegas overcoming seemingly insurmountable odds to earn a berth to the Stanley Cup Final; McGuire’s pre-game interviews with Capitals’ Nicklas Bäckström and Vegas’ Nate Schmidt, and Boucher’s pre-game interviews with Golden Knights’ James Neal and Washington’s T.J. Oshie; a feature on Vegas’ general manager and former Capitals’ general manager George McPhee; a Stanley Cup Final-edition of Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show Superlatives; Roenick jumping off of the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas; Comedian and Las Vegas resident Carrot Top being interviewed by Burmeister and Roenick amongst the crowd; a feature on “Vegas Strong” and the Golden Knights’ efforts to heal its grieving community; and live performances by Lil Jon and former blink-182 drummer Travis Barker. Lil Jon was later interviewed by Tappen during the second intermission.
Coverage shifted inside the arena at 7:30 p.m. ET with McHugh, Milbury and Jones.
Wayne Gretzky – The Great One – starred in a Hulu opening tease prior to puck drop. In the spot, Gretzky – the leading scorer in NHL history and winner of four Stanley Cups – skillfully used a hockey stick to procure his remote control, allowing him to easily access all the Stanley Cup Final content available on Hulu from the comfort of his home.
NBC Sports broadcast the Golden Knights’ elaborate pre-game show before announcer Michael Buffer took the ice to announce the starting lineups.
Emrick on Vegas’ win in Game 1: “Game 1 to the Vegas Golden Knights. One hundred weeks ago, they were allowed to do business, and here they are in the Stanley Cup Final, and they took Game 1. Their fourth line collected three goals in the third period.”
McHugh on Game 1: “In terms of pure entertainment, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Milbury: “It’s as good a hockey game for fun as you’d ever want to see — back and forth, lead changes, controversy, and excitement from the home team. This was really tremendous stuff, all you could ask for and then some in a Stanley Cup Final.”
Jones on both teams’ performance: “Vegas played extremely well, but the Capitals showed that they can play with these guys. They have the speed to keep up.”
Milbury added: “We can put to rest any scintilla of doubt that Vegas is for real.”
Olczyk on Ryan Reaves’ game-tying goal: “And you wonder how a guy gets wide open like that. To me, if the official sees it, it should be a penalty and no goal.”
McGuire on Game 1: “I thought this was supposed to be a feeling-out process when this started. Not tonight. These teams are getting after it.”
McGuire on T-Mobile Arena: “So far this NHL playoff season, this is the loudest building I’ve been in.”
McHugh: “In a town that features plenty of entertainment, Game 1 from Vegas has delivered. Three separate leads have been blown.”
Jones on the Capitals’ depth: “If you’re going to win Cups, you need your supporting cast to come up big, and Nicklas Bäckström’s line has been terrific through two periods of this game.”
Jones on which Capitals’ lineup proved to be most valuable in the first period: “Their third line is getting some traction in this game. In the first period, I thought they were the most effective line in this game.”
Olczyk on Vegas’ success in its inaugural season: “This team should be the Sports Team of the Year, as well as the decade.”
Emrick on Michael Buffer calling boxing matches similar to Game 1: “Somewhere in the building, a man in a white jacket named Michael Buffer has to be thinking, ‘This is the heavyweight division and I think I’ve seen this kind of thing before.’ Guys coming up with big punches, and it’s pretty much even and they continue to land them.”
Olczyk: “Chances at either end, couple of big hits – exactly what you want in a Game 1.”
Pre-Game on NBC (8 p.m. ET)
Milbury on who will win the Conn Smythe: “One of two players’ names is going to be on the Conn Smythe trophy – it’s either going to be (Marc-Andre) Fleury or Alex Ovechkin. I don’t have any doubts about that.”
Milbury on whether Fleury can continue his playoff success in the Final: “The question has got to be, can he stay this good? He was otherworldly, never played any better, making miraculous saves against Winnipeg. I don’t think he can stay that hot. I really don’t. But if he does, his name is going to be on the Cup and the Conn Smythe.”
Milbury on Ovechkin: “The difference is the attitude. He’s all about getting this done as a team … it’s a new, improved Ovechkin. I don’t think he’s going to let this opportunity pass.”
Emrick: “When you come here, you get a splendid, unscripted show called hockey, and before it a pre-game show like none other.”
NHL Live on NBCSN (6 – 8 p.m. ET)
Roenick on how quickly the Golden Knights came together: “Not only did they come on to this team and gel in the locker room and gel on the ice, but they bonded with a city that’s really taken them on as their own.”
Roenick on the performance of Marc-Andre Fleury: “Even if Vegas doesn’t win, I still think Marc-Andrey Fleury is going to win the Conn Smythe for the most valuable player in these playoffs.”
Carter on how Fleury’s style of play fits in with Vegas: “Vegas is all about the show. Marc-Andre Fleury is all about showtime in net. The flashy saves he makes, flashing the leather, tapping the puck with the stick, the fans here in Vegas eat that stuff up.”
Boucher on Vegas’ style of play: “Aggressive, relentless pressure to me is what their identity is. They’re a forward group who does not stop working.”
Roenick on jumping off the Stratosphere Tower SkyJump in Las Vegas: “I’ve wrestled alligators, I’ve caught rattlesnakes, but standing at the top of that building was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done.”
Tirico on Ovechkin’s demeanor ahead of their interview: “Serious. All business. And it’s the day before the biggest thing, the thing you’ve pointed to, not just for his 13 years in the league, but even as a kid in Russia.”
Carrot Top on the excitement surrounding the Golden Knights: “This city has completely changed. This city is about the (Golden) Knights. I’ve never seen this kind of excitement, ever.”
Milbury on Carrot Top’s prediction that the Golden Knights will win the Stanley Cup: “If Carrot Top says the Vegas Golden Knights are going to win, it’s all over. Let’s all go home.”
Musburger on Vegas’ unparalleled success: “No one at that time (at the start of the season) expected what it’s become, a rampage to the Stanley Cup Final, which goes down in history, win or lose, as one of the most remarkable things, certainly in the history of the National Hockey League, but I would add in the history of professional sport in this country.”
Musburger on the impact of the Golden Knights’ success on sports books: “This is the greatest future liability that the state of Nevada has ever had. It’s well north of $5 million, maybe over $7 million, but all of the operators here, they say, ‘Listen, this is good for Las Vegas. We can stand the loss. We hope they cash the tickets. Go Knights, win the Cup.’ This was not a town that bet a lot on hockey until the Golden Knights came here.”