The Washington Capitals vowed to not allow their struggles on their home ice during the Stanley Cup Playoffs haunt them as they hosted their first Stanley Cup Finals game in the Alex Ovechkin era on Saturday night. Ovechkin led the way, scoring one of two second-period goals in the Capitals' 3-1 win over the Las Vegas Golden Knights for a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup Finals. Evgeny Kuzentsov, who was a game-time decision due to an arm injury, scored the other second period goal for the Capitals, who dominated puck possession the entire game. They out-shot, out-hit, and led the way in the faceoff circle, leading to many more scoring opportunities, as they improved to 5-5 at Capital One Arena this postseason. Ovechkin's goal was his 14th of the playoffs, as he slammed home the third chance rebound past Marc Andre-Fleury, who was unable to make the spectacular diving save that his counterpart made in Game 2. On the other end, Braden Holtby was good enough, stopping 21 shots, all to hand the Golden Knights their first two-game losing streak of the playoffs. They had gone 13-3 in their first 16 contests. Thomas Nosek was the only Knight to find the back of the net with his third goal of the series and fourth of the playoffs. Holtby only had to face 22 shots thanks to his teammates, who blocked 26 shots in front of him, leading to plenty of odd-man opportunities for the Capitals. The Knights have only faced one other series deficit in their inaugural season, and will look to even the series in Game 4, which will be back at Capital One Arena on Monday night.
Scherzer Steals Show on Base Paths in Extras
Max Scherzer can just about do it all, not just on the mound, and we've seen it numerous times since he joined the Washington Nationals. He stole the show yet again on Saturday as a pinch-hitter with a single and then scoring the winning run from first on a Wilmer Difo triple in the 14th inning for a 5-3 win over the Atlanta Braves. Scherzer is known to be one of the more athletic pitchers in the majors, both at the plate and on his feet, which Washington will use to their advantage in games like Saturday. The Nats added one more on an RBI single from Spencer Kieboom, winning their first game of this weekend series with their division rivals. The victory pulls them back within a half game of the first-place Braves in the NL East. Justin Miller struck out five over three innings to improve to 2-0, while Sean Doolittle pitched a scoreless inning for his 14th save in 15 attempts. The Nats' bullpen kept the Braves off the scoreboard on Saturday and has now allowed just two runs over the past 33 innings. The Braves' bullpen also stepped up, especially Jesse Biddle, who struck out eight of the 13 batters he faced, including stranding the bases loaded in the 11th inning by getting Juan Soto swinging. Soto did end the day 3-for-5 with a home run, while Michael Taylor also went deep to help the Nats jump ahead. Johan Camargo had a home run of his own to put the Braves back ahead, before the lead would go away late. Atlanta did get a nice outing from Brandon McCarthy, as he allowed two runs on four hits and struck out seven over six-plus innings. He did end the day by retiring 15 of the final 17 batters he faced, but the two batters he didn't retire both scored on Taylor's long ball. The Braves still have a chance to take the series and stay on top in the NL East in the series finale on Sunday afternoon.
Astros Fall, Mariners Pull in to Tie For First
The Houston Astros are in a much bigger fight in the AL West than what they saw last season, but it's not by the contenders that anyone saw coming. On Saturday, the Astros blew a lead after Justin Verlander exited the game and fell to the Boston Red Sox at home, 5-4. Verlander left with the lead, but Wil Harris allowed home runs to Christian Vazquez and Andrew Benintendi, which put Boston up for good. Benintendi's two-run shot was the official game-winner, as their starter, David Price, lasted long enough (six innings) to earn his sixth win. J.D. Martinez got to his old teammate, Verlander, twice with two RBI singles, for the only two runs and two of the three hits he would surrender. The Astros' ace lasted six innings and struck out six in the no-decision effort. The loss for the Astros was the first of this weekend series, but a team right behind them keeps on winning and had a wide open door by the end of their game. The Seattle Mariners continued to roll later in the night, as Marco Gonzales pitched in to the seventh inning and struck out six in a 3-1 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. The win pulls the M's in to a tie for first place with the Astros in the West. Gonzales allowed an RBI double to Wilson Ramos in the sixth inning for the only blemish on his outing, as Seattle improved to 19-12 at home. Ryon Healy went deep, while Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz drove in runs, as the Mariners have now won 12 of their past 15 games. Before Gonzales gave up the lone run to Tampa Bay, he was able to extend his scoreless streak to 24.1 innings. Chris Archer struggled with his command for the Rays and allowed two runs over five innings, which is good for his shortest outing since April 14th against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Rays' ace left the game early with tightness in his groin. Both series will finish up on Sunday, as the Mariners can take sole possession of first place in the AL West by the end of the weekend.