Devante Smith-Pelly scores in back-to-back games for the first time since 2014
The right winger’s six postseason points also set a new personal best
Devante Smith-Pelly doesn’t put any stock in momentum. He’s not motivated to play better by impending contract talks after the season.
Want to know why the Washington Capitals right winger is having such success this postseason? He’s just having fun. As cliché as it sounds, that has been the biggest difference for the seventh-year pro.
The Capitals took a 3-1 lead over the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday with their 6-2 victory in the Stanley Cup Final. Smith-Pelly delivered Washington’s third goal for the second straight game. In Game 3 his goal was insurance, while on Monday his goal was part of the Capitals’ masterful offensive onslaught.
Smith-Pelly set a personal record for points in the postseason (six) and scored in back-to-back games for just the second time in his NHL career. The last time he did so was in 2014 against the Los Angeles Kings when he played for the Anaheim Ducks.
“Sometimes it just bounces your way, so hopefully it can continue to bounce my way and our way as a team,” Smith-Pelly said. “I think the most what [Capitals coach Barry Trotz] wanted was just being consistent. Kind of been a knock on me: one good game, a couple bad ones, and up and down and up and down.
“I think every game is different. Once the buzzer goes, I think everyone regroups. You saw last game how they played, and they played much better tonight. So I don’t think there’s much carry-over for teams or me personally. I was just trying to help the team and play well, and it just so happened that I scored again.”
As the Vegas defenders were preoccupied with Matt Niskanen, who had taken a pass from Alex Ovechkin above the right circle, Smith-Pelly stealthily moved to the left side of the goal behind teammate Evgeny Kuznetsov. Niskanen’s pass was slightly deflected, but Smith-Pelly outstretched his left foot to keep the puck in play and got off a nifty shot just over the left shoulder of Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
The 25-year-old gave Washington a 3-0 lead with 20.5 seconds remaining in the first period. With Smith-Pelly needing two more goals to tie his regular-season output, there are those who see him as a fresh face this postseason. But for those who are around him every day in practice, the recognition is long overdue.
“He just does everything, and when you do everything, certain opportunities in certain games …. you can find your niche, and I think he’s been a real important player for us,” Capitals defender John Carlson said. “[He has] really done a good job on [penalty kills] and forecheck and all that stuff. And when he can pot goals for us, that’s a big boost. We know he’s capable of it, so it’s nice to see him get some credit for all his hard work.”
Washington will go for the closeout Thursday in Las Vegas, and while Smith-Pelly, who will be a restricted free agent, doesn’t believe in momentum, the fact is he’s hot right now. If he’s able to keep his streak alive, the Caps’ championship drought could come to an end.
“Close, but everyone in here knows the fourth game is obviously the toughest to close a team out,” Smith-Pelly said, “and everyone knows that until that buzzer goes, not trying to think about too much.
“I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I’m happy with the way the team is playing. Just trying to have fun. … I think we have another level. I think Game 3 is the way we have to play for 60 minutes [in Game 5].”