One sure bet: An entertaining Game 3 in DC

By Brent Musburger  (VSiN managing editor) 

For a Golden Knights fan, the hours are slooooowly moving toward Game 3. Not even plus money on everybody’s favorite team can erase the apprehension, unease and angst about what lies ahead.

The image of Alex Tuch about to burst into celebrating a game-tying goal lingers just as much as Braden Holtby’s outstretched stick stopping the Knights from having a chance to take a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

While you anxiously wait to watch Saturday night’s game from D.C., you should exercise some restraint before you back your Golden Knights. If you shop around town, you will not have a hard time finding plus 105. But there are several shops offering plus 110.

Taking a closer look at the first two games, when you take the blinders off, the great Marc-André Fleury has actually been inconsistent. Unlike the Western Conference Final against Winnipeg when he was brilliant, experts have found some cracks in the armor.

But the focus for now has to be on injured Capital center Evgeny Kuznetsov, who was a full participant in Friday’s practice. After looking a dozen times at Brayden McNabb’s check on Kuznetsov, two things are abundantly clear. First, McNabb lived up to his infamous reputation for coming in high on big checks. And second, never mind all this “upper body” nonsense. Kuznetsov injured his left wrist on the play, clutching at it before he left the ice for the rest of Game 2.

Kuznetsov leads the league in playoff scoring with 25 points, and before he left Game 2, he had put up a goal or an assist in 11 consecutive games. He does his damage playing left-handed, making his injury all the more vital.

But Washington is not without quality replacements for the Russian who centers the Alex Ovechkin line with the villain Tom Wilson on the other wing. Danish center Lars Eller with his goal and two assists and Sweden’s Nicklas Bäckström with an assist of his own both stepped in and did really good work after Kuznetsov left the ice Wednesday night.

Kuznetsov is important, but with Eller and Bäckström, the Capitals are deeper at the center position than any team in the league.

Still, the overall quality of this series has not been “A”-grade hockey, but from a fan standpoint, this has been a wildly entertaining Stanley Cup Final, and I see no reason why this is going to stop this weekend.

That even applies before the game. Washington’s answer to Michael Buffer will be Pat Sajak, a longtime Capital fan who will announce the starting lineup Saturday to a “Wheel of Fortune” soundtrack – one that will ring in the ears of fans here in Vegas. Just remember when you play your next “Wheel of Fortune” slot machine, you will have one of the biggest D.C. hockey fans in the country staring right at you.

Now to the agony and the ecstasy of the NBA.

I was holding two $50 tickets on Game 1. After the first quarter, I’m celebrating the Cavaliers’ plus 4½ winning ticket. But I’m a little uneasy about my under 215½. But coming down the stretch I had a chance to cash again. That was when the rulebook intervened – literally at the last minute.

With 36.4 seconds left and the Cavs up 104-102, I’m thinking that my man LeBron has taken a charge from Kevin Durant. But then came the video review to see if LeBron was positioned outside the restricted arc. That led to the change of a Durant charge into a LeBron block. If you look at it over and over, the call can go either way. Because of that I’m uneasy with the refs’ ability to overturn the charging call on the floor.

What that did with the clock stopped was give one of the best free-throw shooters in the NBA a chance to put two more points on the board, tie the game and bring the total to 208.

Then after LeBron answered with a go-ahead layup, Stephen Curry gets an and-one to put the Warriors ahead and bring the total to 213 with 23.5 seconds to go.

Now I’m on pins and needles, but I’ve got one chance. Either the Cavaliers miss and time runs out, or George Hill goes to the free-throw line and makes both free throws. After he made the first and then missed the second, I’m done. Regardless of J.R. Smith’s blunder, more points were coming either at the buzzer or, as it turned out, in over time – where unders go to die.

This was a bad beat that I’m going to remember for a long time. Each of those tickets would have paid $95.45. So with the one I lost, it cost me $4.55 to enjoy the night.

I hope my next “Wheel of Fortune” spin lands on “Go, Knights, Go!”

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