The Vegas Golden Knights are now only three wins away from winning a championship in their first year in existence after defeating the Washington Capitals 6-4 in the first game of the Stanley Cup Final.

Stanley Cup Golden Knights
Vegas Golden Knights winger Tomas Nosek scores on Capitals goalie Braden Holtby in the third period of Game 1 of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. (Image: Ross D. Franklin/AP)

The game was an exhilarating start to the series, featuring a Finals-record four lead changes and little defense in front of two goalies who were challenged again and again throughout the night.

Momentum Swings                                

The Golden Knights took the early lead on the power play. Following a minor penalty to Andre Burakovsky for boarding Cody Eakin, Colin Miller put in the first goal of the series to give Vegas a 1-0 lead.

But that advantage would be short-lived. Later in the first, Brett Conolly and Nicklas Backstrom scored for the Capitals less than a minute apart, handing the advantage back to Washington. A William Karlsson goal with less than two minutes remaining in the first ended a wild opening period with the score at 2-2.

Vegas regained the lead early in the second period on a goal by Reilly Smith. But Washington would respond again, with Jon Carlson and Tom Wilson scoring to take their second lead of the game at 4-3 early in the third period.

But that would be the last time the Capitals would get on the board. An unassisted goal from Ryan Reaves just under three minutes into the final period tied the game at four. Tomas Nosek then gave the Golden Knights a 5-4 advantage with about 10 minutes remaining. And despite a furious attack in the last two minutes after the Capitals pulled goaltender Braden Holtby, Vegas was able to hold on, with Nosek adding an empty-netter just seconds before the final buzzer to put the game away.

As the score would suggest, Game 1 was a sloppy affair, albeit a highly entertaining contest. Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin attributed that to the jitters that come with starting a Stanley Cup Final.

“I think next game is going to be different, and all the nervousness, all the bad thing goes away in this game,” Ovechkin told reporters after the game. “We just have to forget about it and bounce back.”

Wilson Won’t Face Suspension

The most controversial moment of the night came when Capitals forward Tom Wilson landed a blindside hit on Golden Knights forward Jonathan Marchessault in the third period. While Wilson received a two-minute minor for interference, many were screaming that it should’ve been a five-minute major.

According to USA Today, that quotes an anonymous source with knowledge of the NHL’s decision, Wilson will not be suspended for the hit. Wilson has already been assessed one three-game suspension this postseason following a hit that broke the jaw of Pittsburgh’s Zach Aston-Reese.

With Marchessault apparently healthy and Wilson not facing additional disciplinary action, the two teams should be able to return with the same lineups when they meet for Game 2 in Vegas on Wednesday.

The Golden Knights are now strongly favored to win the series, with Coral listing them at 4/11 odds to win the Stanley Cup. There’s good reason for feeling that Vegas has a serious advantage: historically, Game 1 winners have won 61 of the 78 Stanley Cup Finals, included the last six.