The Caps are just 4-5 at home in the postseason, but they'll ride a wave of momentum after going into the Golden Knights' daunting home arena and taking away home-ice advantage in their first Stanley Cup Final in 20 years.
Holtby capped his energetic performance with a jaw-dropping stick save with 1:59 to play, stretching back to rob Alex Tuch of a possible tying goal.
Washington led the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 after two periods. Lars Eller sored in the first for the Caps with Alex Ovechkin (PP) and Brooks Orpik found the back of the net in the second for three straight goals. Melrose said Game 1 had plenty of mistakes, but it was entertaining, and it stood out for the Golden Knights' speed and for their penalty kill.
Coach Barry Trotz said Kuznetsov had not been cleared, considers him day to day, and expects Washington's leading scorer to be a game-time decision on Saturday.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
The win was the Caps' first-ever Stanley Cup Final victory - and the save might be a catalyst to even bigger things. I think you'd be hard-pressed to find somebody who's rooting for the Capitals no matter how good they are. The team prevailed, but can they do it again if he misses any more time?
A past incarnation of this franchise might have crumbled any number of times - playoff heartbreak was becoming the norm - but these Capitals feel different.
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In a chaotic game busy with collisions and vengeance, wicked shots and pretty passes, smart decisions and dumb luck, sometimes there's a singular moment that transcends hockey's handsome mess.
I used to be a huge "let the boys play" kinda guy when it came to officiating, but following the 2004 lockout and seeing what the game could be when low-skill, low-speed players weren't allowed to make elite players slog through sticks, arms and cross-checks, that went out the window.
"I screamed. Ears are still ringing", forward T.J. Oshie said.
The phrase suited the mayhem of the first three rounds, when the Golden Knights stampeded through the Western Conference bracket, clobbering two inferior teams in San Jose and Los Angeles and a third, Winnipeg, which was exhausted from a bruising seven-game series against Nashville.
If the series moves past a Game 5 in Las Vegas and returns to the east coast, plans for a Game 6 situation will be announced then.
Eller continued his dominant play by carrying the puck into Vegas' zone and leaving a drop pass for Orpik, whose shot from the right circle deflected off Tuch past Marc-Andre Fleury to extend the Capitals lead to 3-1 at 9:41. It's not a fate the Capitals want to continue to tempt moving forward in the series, though.
In postseason failures of yore, this would have been the moment when it all unraveled for Washington. We thought we were going to win the Stanley Cup. "I think he embraces the challenge". Shea Theodore feathered a fluttering puck through traffic and past Braden Holtby late in the second period, bringing Vegas within a goal. There were 10 goals scored in Game 1 and another five in Game 2.