Capitals focus on Knights’ ability to make plays behind net

Updated May 29, 2018 - 7:01 pm

The Capitals realize far too many pucks found their way into their net in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final.

They know they will have to clean up the area behind it to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Three of the goals scored by the Golden Knights in a 6-4 win Monday at T-Mobile Arena came on plays where the puck came off the end boards behind the net.

“We know exactly that’s what they do,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said after practice Tuesday. “They’re an east-west type of team. They use the back of the net. They’re a forechecking team and most forechecking teams will do that.

“So it wasn’t a surprise. It was just the pucks were bouncing pretty good last night. Unfortunately, the ice wasn’t great. Usually, that first game on real fresh ice, and the building was warm, and all the stuff, the pucks were bouncing a little bit and to me it was more of that.

“There was a lot of chaos because the pucks were bouncing around.”

William Karlsson’s goal late in the first period tied the game and came after Reilly Smith fired a shot off the end boards that Karlsson was able to jam in off the shoulder of goaltender Braden Holtby.

Smith then put the Knights ahead after Marchessault had his shot deflected from behind the net. Deryk Engelland passed the puck to Smith out front for the goal.

Then there was the Ryan Reeves’ goal for a 4-4 tie early in the third period. Engelland put a puck off the boards and Reeves finished in front after Tomas Nosek tried to jam in the rebound.

“It’s tough,” forward Jay Beagle said. “They play a tough style. Everything they get, they get behind the net, throwing it out front. We gotta make sure we collapse to the house, make sure we’re more condensed.

“A lot of teams try to make sure they get a lot of offense and puck movement from their defense. They also do that. But more so when they’re around the net, in that trapezoid, they like to throw the puck out in front. And they know where their guys are.”

It’s not the only part of the ice the Capitals need to address.

The Knights are known for their prowess in the neutral zone, and Washington star Alex Ovechkin understands that will be a key area as the series progresses.

“I think in the neutral zone we have to play much better, manage the puck well and we have to play to their zone obviously,” he said. “You can see they had lots of bounces on their side last game. They know that building and they use it. We just have to play to their side.”

Game 2 is not likely to be quite as high-scoring after two of the hottest goaltenders in the league combined to surrender nine goals in addition to an empty-netter.

“Yeah (I was surprised at the number of goals), but you never know what’s going to happen in the games,” Ovechkin said. “Sometimes you have to win by one, sometimes goalies play unstoppable and it’s hard to score. But again, I’m pretty sure tomorrow’s going to be different game.

It’s going to be more detailed and more intense.”

Expect much of that intensity to be focused on stopping pucks behind the net.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com or 702-277-8028. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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