NBC Sports’ exclusive coverage of the Stanley Cup Final continued tonight on NBCSN, as the Washington Capitals defeated the Vegas Golden Knights, 3-1, in Game 3 from Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. Alex Ovechkin netted his 14th goal of the postseason and his second of the Stanley Cup Final to give the Capitals a 2-1 series lead.
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 Washington. 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 Washington, capturing the scene amongst the fans alongside analysts and former players Jeremy Roenick, Brian Boucher, and Anson Carter.
NHL Live included: Jones’ interview with Vegas’ Alex Tuch and McGuire’s interview with Washington’s Brooks Orpik; Roenick’s interview with Grammy Award-winner Sting and Shaggy, who performed a concert for fans outside the arena; Burmeister’s interview with 1999 MLB Baseball Hall of Fame inductee George Brett, who has become a fan of the Golden Knights; an on-ice segment featuring Roenick, Carter and Boucher breaking down how the Capitals bested Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 2; former Redskins head coach and Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs live with Burmeister; a feature on Capitals fan Amanda Wilson, who is battling cancer; and a feature on Vegas’ Nate Schmidt.
Coverage shifted inside the arena at 7:30 p.m. ET with McHugh, Milbury and Jones. Wheel of Fortune and Capitals season-ticket holder host Pat Sajak conducted player introductions, and Saturday Night Live’s Kenan Thompson joined McHugh and Milbury on-set during the first intermission.
Milbury on his biggest takeaway from Game 3: “I thought the checking game was the key here … I thought it was the Capitals that did a better job of swarming the Golden Knights in every particular zone. They made it very difficult for the Knights to take shots or get good looks.”
Added Jones: “When Vegas started to gain some traction in the third period, it was some Washington turnovers that gave them those chances, including the one by Braden Holtby … but Washington shut it down again after that and calmly went about doing their thing in the last seven or eight minutes of the game. It was a great finish, wasn’t a great start to the third period, but the Capitals found a way to shut the door.”
Emrick on Washington being two games away from winning the Cup: “There are posters with Stanley Cups on them saying, ‘It’s OK to believe.’ Perhaps in past years it was against their (Capitals) better judgement, but judgment gets clouded by emotion and also by success.”
Olczyk on Holtby turnover which led to Tomas Nosek’s goal: “Instead of going around the boards, Braden Holtby tries to go through the middle of the ice…you’ll see goaltenders just move it around the boards and put it around the roulette wheel. But he tries to get a little too cute. The quick forecheck by Bellemare and a wide open net.”
McGuire following Devante Smith-Pelly’s goal: “Think of all of the timely goals in the entire playoffs that Devante Smith-Pelly has scored. Go back to the Pittsburgh series, then the Tampa series, and now here in the Stanley Cup Final.”
Milbury on the Golden Knights’ offensive struggles: “I don’t think they have the same jump. I don’t see them checking as well as Washington. Washington has taken a page out of Vegas’ playbook and (has) used it superbly, just eliminating any kind of time and space.”
Olczyk on Ovechkin’s goal: “Second- and third-chance opportunities, you give a team at this level that many in a short period of time, there’s a pretty big chance the puck is going to go in the back of the net.”
Jones on Ovechkin’s performance in the first period: “He was great – every element of the game. Blocking shots … getting to the front of the net, battling for loose pucks, did all of that. The speed was evident in the first period for Ovechkin … I thought he was terrific.”
Milbury added: “He’s clearly on top of his game. Good energy, good patience, made the right decisions – this is the new and improved (Ovechkin) that everyone has come to appreciate. He’s bringing the ‘‘A’’ game in the most important game of season.”
Pre-Game on NBCSN (8 p.m. ET)
Milbury on Washington’s concerns heading into Game 3: “They have to be worried about the lack of discipline in their game. They have to be worried about whether Braden Holtby can be as superb as he was in Game 2 here in Game 3.”
Milbury on whether Holtby needs to be as proficient as Fleury in Game 3: “He needs to at least match him puck-for-puck, save-for-save.”
NHL Live on NBCSN (6 – 8 p.m. ET)
Olczyk on Capitals’’ resilience: “I’m not as concerned about this game. Washington has proven to everyone that they’re resilient. Look what they’ve been able to do in these playoffs – losing the first two games at home in Round 1, winning a Game 7, getting rid of Pittsburgh. I think this is a way different team. Regardless of what happens tonight, I think this series is going seven games.”
Roenick on Vegas’ key to success in Game 3: “They have to find a way to get to (Braden) Holtby. He was absolutely spectacular in Game 2.”
Boucher on importance of Washington’s focus on defense and physicality: “I want to see the game from the Caps that they played in Game 6 in Tampa and continued on the road in Game 7, with more of a focus on details defensively. Try to win this game 2-1 or 3-1 — that has to be the mindset that Washington has. Playing into the hands of a Vegas team that plays that fast-paced game is something that I think could hurt them. Continue to pound them. When they play physical as they did in Game 2, they had a profound effect on Vegas and forcing turnovers.”
Roenick on the Holtby’s critical save in Game 2 and the Vegas fans’ reactions: “The shock that it didn’t go in just took everybody right out of the moment … One of the best saves I’ve ever seen.”
Boucher on Vegas’ Nate Schmidt: “This guy has been a revelation for the Vegas Golden Knights … he’s really started to blossom in these playoffs.”
Brett on what a Cup would mean to Alex Ovechkin: “For a guy like Alex who has been in this franchise, longer probably (than) anybody else on this ball club, it would mean an awful lot to him and it would mean an awful lot to this city.”
Milbury on impact of Kuznetsov in the Capitals lineup: “It gets the balance back to their lineup. It means they can have two really good offensive lines, and Lars Eller slips back to the third line…this is the strength of their franchise, right down the middle. Kuznetsov is a big reason for the turn of Ovechkin into a full and complete player.”
Jones on how Kuznetsov’s absence in Game 2 impacted the Capitals: “They played probably their best period-and-a-half in a series after he left and gave themselves enough momentum to hang on in the end.”
Boucher on Fleury’s performance in this series: “I don’t think that he’s been necessarily poor, that’s not the case. I just think it’s been the case where he hasn’t been the story. And maybe a case of (being) over-aggressive at times. This guy is a professional and I expect him to bounce back.”
Gibbs on the similarities between football and hockey: “I think (Ovechkin) would be a great tight end for us.”