WASHINGTON (AP) James Neal had the puck on his stick and was staring at an open net. In a can’t-miss situation Derek Ryan Jersey Womens , that’s exactly what he did.Poised to give the Vegas Golden Knights the opening goal in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final, the veteran leader of this upstart expansion team hit the right post . Ping! The puck skipped behind Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby and slithered harmlessly toward the back boards.”You want those chances. Nine times out of 10 you probably put that in the back of the net,” Neal said. ”I had the composure to wait. And then you shoot it and you’re like, `Oh!”’The Golden Knights, a team in desperate need of a boost of confidence, collectively shrugged as a golden opportunity slipped away.”It definitely would have changed the outcome of the game and would have given us momentum,” said right wing Alex Tuch, who knows a thing or two about being coming up empty on a close-in shot.Not surprisingly, the Golden Knights sputtered the rest of the way Monday night in a 6-2 defeat that put them on the brink of elimination. Washington is up 3-1 and can win its first Stanley Cup on Thursday night in Las Vegas.”Go home, win one game and the pressure is on them,” Neal said, hopefully.Although the Capitals have blown many a playoff series in the past, only one team, the 1942 Detroit Red Wings, has lost the Stanley Cup Final after holding a 3-1 lead.”Not where we want to be, that’s for sure,” Vegas goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. ”But we have a good bunch of guys with a lot of character in the room. Nobody’s quitting.”Barring a comeback of historic proportions – an unlikely occurrence after being outscored 12-5 over the past three games – the Golden Knights will always remember this series for ”The Stick” and ”The Post.””The Stick” was wielded by Holtby , who used it late in Game 2 to snuff a seemingly sure goal by Tuch in a 3-2 Washington victory. ”The Post” is a symbol of the frustration Vegas has experienced in this series after winning 12 of 15 in roaring to the Western Conference title.Who knows if things would have been different on Monday night if Neal put the puck in the net?This much is certain: The reeling Golden Knights were looking for something John Carlson Jersey , anything, to build on when they entered Game 4, and a 1-0 lead would have been splendid. Presented with a power play in a scoreless first period, Vegas worked the puck around smartly in the Washington zone. Then, Erik Haula whisked a cross-ice pass to Neal on the left side of the net, and Holtby was slow to react.”We obviously got some breaks at the start of the game,” the goaltender said. ”Honestly, I thought it was in. Somehow, it didn’t go in.”Said Neal: ”It’s not like anyone made a save. I shot it off the post on the far side. It’s done with. It’s not the first time it’s happened. Probably won’t be the last. But at this stage, at that moment, it changes the game.”The Capitals rattled off three straight goals before the period ended to take full control.Game over. On to the next one for the Golden Knights, who face elimination for the first time during the playoffs.”You can’t feel sorry for yourself. You’ve got to win a game at home,” Neal said. ”That’s what we’ll focus on. I like the way we played. You’ve got to take the positives.”Coach Gerard Gallant insisted: ”Tonight’s game was a step forward. Obviously, though, we have no more room for error.”The Golden Knights could use a little luck. Tuch and Brayden McNabb both lined shots off the post after Neal, who scored with just under 16 minutes left to make it 4-1.But the outcome by then was all but decided.The Golden Knights have struggled to generate offense against the tenacious Washington defense, and Fleury has not been as sharp as he was in Vegas’ three previous series. He gave up six goals on 23 shots as Vegas dropped its third straight game.”Obviously, when you’re a goalie Lars Eller Jersey , you don’t want to get scored on,” Fleury said. ”There was a lot of that tonight. It’s never a good feeling.”—More Stanley Cup coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/StanleyCupFinals WASHINGTON (AP) Craig Smith scored twice and Ryan Johansen had the go-ahead goal late in the third period to help the Nashville Predators beat the Washington Capitals 4-3 Thursday night to clinch first place in the Central Division, the top seed in the Western Conference and the best record in the NHL.Even though it’ll be Pekka Rinne in net for the Predators when they open the playoffs next week, backup Juuse Saros stopped 28 of the 31 shots and captain Roman Josi scored on the power play to give them their first division title in 19 seasons of existence.Nashville has a franchise-record 52 victories and will open the playoffs against the second wild card in the West as it tries to return to the Stanley Cup Final. The Predators clinched the Presidents’ Trophy for the league’s top record when Boston lost to Florida 3-2 later Thursday. Nashville watched from the arena as the Panthers scored late in the third period to top the Bruins.Evgeny Kuznetsov scored twice and Alex Ovechkin added his NHL-leading 47th goal of the season for the Metropolitan-champion Capitals, who have nothing left to play for and could still face any of a handful of teams in the first round. Philipp Grubauer made 25 saves and strengthened his case to be Washington’s Game 1 playoff starter over 2016 Vezina Trophy winner Braden Holtby.CANUCKS 4, COYOTES 3, OTVANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) – Daniel Sedin scored on a power play 2:33 into overtime with his brother Henrik Sedin earning an assist in their final home game before retiring after 17 seasons with Vancouver.The twins were mobbed by teammates after the goal. Fans were on their feet the minute the Sedins went over the boards after Arizona’s Richard Panik was called for hooking. The goal came when Henrik passed back to Daniel, who blasted a shot from the blue line.After the game, the two brothers slowly skated around the ice at Rogers Arena, waving at the fans.The brothers had combined for a goal earlier in the game, with Daniel scoring and Henrik assisting again.Christian Fischer, Derek Stepan and Dylan Strome scored for Arizona.Jake Virtanen and Brendan Leipsic got the other goals for the Canucks. Both teams will miss the playoffs.DEVILS 2, MAPLE LEAFS 1NEWARK, N.J. (AP) – The New Jersey Devils are back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012.Patrick Maroon set up second-period goals by Pavel Zacha and Miles Wood and the Devils ended a five-year postseason drought with the victory over Toronto.Keith Kinkaid, the mainstay in goal since the end of January, made 31 saves as the Devils won their fourth straight and extended their points streak to eight games (7-0-1). He preserved the lead with a stop in close on Austin Matthews with just over seven minutes to play.New Jersey is 10-2-1 in its last 13 in going from the worst team in the Eastern Conference a year ago to one that will get a chance to start playing for the Stanley Cup next week. After it was over, the players went to center ice and saluted the fans who were standing for much of the final minute.William Nylander scored on a power play in the first period for Toronto to ice his second straight 20-goal season. Frederik Anderson was outstanding Madison Bowey Jersey , making 37 saves, including saves on breakaways by Taylor Hall and Michael Grabner in the big second period.The loss was only the fourth in 13 games (9-3) for the Maple Leafs.KINGS 5, WILD 4, OTLOS ANGELES (AP) – Dustin Brown scored his fourth goal of the game 23 seconds into overtime and Los Angeles moved into third place in the Pacific Division.Brown scored on a sharp-angle shot from the left circle to put the Kings one point ahead of Anaheim in the division. He set a career high with his 61st point.Tobias Rieder also scored, and Daniel Brickley had an assist for his first point in his NHL debut. Jonathan Quick made 23 saves for the Kings’ fourth win in five games.Matt Dumba scored for the second straight game, and Nate Prosser had a short-handed goal for the Wild, who will play Winnipeg in the first round of the playoffs. Ryan Murphy and Eric Staal each had a goal, and Alex Stalock made 23 saves.FLYERS 4, HURRICANES 3PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Jakub Voracek scored with 5:45 left to lift Philadelphia past Carolina.Claude Giroux, Ivan Provorov and Michael Raffl also scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers would have clinched a playoff spot if Boston beat Florida, but the Panthers topped the Bruins 3-2.The Flyers seemed in great shape when Giroux put them up 3-2 with 9:42 remaining behind a wrist shot that beat goalie Scott Darling. It extended the Flyers captain’s career-high totals to 31 goals and 98 points. The Hurricanes erased the lead when Brian Elliott let in his second soft goal of the game, this one Jordan Staal’s backhander from a sharp angle near the side boards with 6:19 left.Elliott returned after missing 25 games following core muscle surgery Feb. 13.Klas Dahlbeck and Sebastian Aho also scored for Carolina.PANTHERS 3, BRUINS 2SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – Jared McCann scored with 5:37 left and Roberto Luongo got the win in his 1,000th career game, helping Florida beat Boston to stay in playoff contention.The Panthers trail Philadelphia by four points for the final Eastern Conference wild card and have two games remaining, including a matchup Sunday night with Boston. Florida needs to win both games and have the Flyers lose to the New York Rangers in regulation Saturday.The 39-year-old Luongo became the third goalie to reach the 1,000-game mark Nicklas Backstrom Jersey , joining Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur (1,266) and Patrick Roy (1,029). He stopped 26 shots Thursday.Aleksander Barkov scored his 100th career goal, and Frank Vatrano scored a goal against his former team for the Panthers. Danton Heinen and Ryan Donato scored for Boston.PENGUINS 5, BLUE JACKETS 4, OTCOLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Phil Kessel scored 1:06 into overtime for Pittsburgh, and Columbus earned a point to clinch a playoff spot for the second consecutive season.Kessel scored for the left circle for his second goal of the game and 33rd of the season. Conor Sheary tied it at 12:16 in the third period.Patric Hornqvist and Kris Letang also scored, and Matt Murray had 26 saves for Pittsburgh. Zach Werenski, Matt Calvert, Boone Jenner and Cam Atkinson scored for Columbus.JETS 2, FLAMES 1WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) – Connor Hellebuyck made 31 saves to tie the record for victories in a season by an American goalie and Winnipeg beat Calgary for its fourth straight victory.Hellebuyck has 43 victories to match the mark set by former Pittsburgh star Tom Barrasso in 1992-93.Blake Wheeler scored his 23rd goal for his 90th point of the season, and Paul Stastny added a goal to help Winnipeg improve to 10-1-0 in its past 11 and 51-20-10 overall. Rookie Spencer Foo scored his first NHL goal in his third game for the Flames.SHARKS 4, AVALANCHE 2SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) – Logan Couture scored his NHL-leading 16th go-ahead goal six minutes into the third period and San Jose improved its chances for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.Justin Braun, Tomas Hertl and Joonas Donskoi also scored for the Sharks, who snapped a four-game losing streak and kept their one-point lead over the Anaheim Ducks for second-place in the Pacific Division.Mikko Rantanen and Blake Comeau scored for the Avalanche James Neal Jersey Womens , who missed an opportunity to increase their lead over the St. Louis Blues for a playoff spot.Martin Jones stopped 23 shots for the Sharks. Jonathan Bernier saved 32 for the Avalanche.ISLANDERS 2, RANGERS 1NEW YORK (AP) – Thomas Hickey and Anthony Beauvillier scored 2:32 apart in the second period and the New York Islanders kept up their recent mastery of the Rangers.Jaroslav Halak stopped 34 shots as the Islanders won for the 11th time in the past 12 meetings with the Rangers. They swept the four-game season series for the second time in the past three seasons, after never previously doing it since joining the NHL in 1972.The Islanders are also 6-0-0 at home against the Rangers since moving to Barclays Center in 2015.Kevin Hayes scored, and Ondrej Pavelec made 20 saves for the Rangers.OILERS 4, GOLDEN KNIGHTS 3EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) – Connor McDavid had three assists to push his NHL-leading points total to 106 and help Edmonton beat Vegas.Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Benning, Mike Cammalleri and Ty Rattie scored for the Oilers. They snapped a five-game losing skid. Brayden McNabb, Brandon Pirri and Oscar Lindberg replied for the Pacific Division-leading Golden Knights. They had won three in a row.CANADIENS 4, RED WINGS 3DETROIT (AP) – Nicolas Deslauriers‘ second goal put Montreal ahead late in the second period and the Canadiens held on to beat Detroit.The Original Six teams are out of the playoff race, finishing up the season playing only for pride.Brendan Gallagher and Artturi Lehkonen also scored and Antti Niemi made 23 saves.Darren Helm, Tyler Bertuzzi and Dylan Larkin scored for Detroit.