Braden Holtby might've been the Washington Capitals' best player in their Game 2 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights, but Lars Eller was the team's best skater, and it couldn't have come at a more crucial time.
Evgeny Kuznetsov, the Caps' No. 1 center and leading point-getter so far this postseason, left the game in the first period after taking a hit from Brayden McNabb and did not return. This bumped Nicklas Backstrom up to the top line and Eller up to the second line, and he did not disappoint.
First, Eller buried Washington's opening goal into the yawning cage after two nice passes from Andre Burakovsky and Michal Kempny. Then, while taking Kuznetsov's spot on the power play, he fed Alex Ovechkin with a cross-crease pass to give the Caps the lead. For an encore, he started the rush on Brooks Orpik's goal, setting him up with a beautiful no-look dish.
That gave Eller three points in the game, making him directly responsible for each of Washington's goals. And this wasn't the first time this postseason Eller stepped up in the absence of a key center.
When Backstrom was out for the final game against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round and the first three games of the Eastern Conference Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Eller was the team's unsung hero, collecting five points in those four games, three of which were wins.
Eller signed a five-year contract extension in February with an average annual value of $3.5 million. Coming off a career-high 38-point season, he now has 17 points in 21 playoff games. It's safe to say that contract is looking like a bargain now, given the demand for quality two-way centers around the league.