You may have wondered if you’d live long enough to ever see these words written, but here they are: The Washington Capitals are the Stanley Cup champions.
It was certainly far from a slam dunk, but the Caps finally got the job done, winning their first championship in their 43rd season in the NHL in come-from-behind fashion. Trailing the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 entering the final period, the Caps finally got over the hump, scoring twice on their way to a 4-3 Game 5 win.
The jitters were apparent in the first period as neither team was able to get much momentum going. Marc-Andre Fleury turned aside an early offensive attack from the Capitals, stopping nine shots in the period. Braden Holtby was also sharp, stopping seven shots despite a late period push by the Golden Knights.
But the Capitals stormed out of the gate in the second period with Jakub Vrana potting his third goal of the postseason. Vrana was able to get an extra step on defender Brayden McNabb and fired a shot top-shelf to beat Fleury for the game’s first goal. Undeterred, Vegas came back with the equalizer as Nate Schmidt redirected a puck in front of the net.
But the Great 8, awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, responded with a beautiful wrist shot from the left circle to put the Capitals back up a goal. Again, though, the Golden Knights answered. David Perron, inserted back into the lineup after missing Game 4, quickly tied the game up less than two minutes later. Then, with just seconds remaining in the period, Reilly Smith scored his fifth of the postseason and put the Golden Knights up 3-2 in the game. Holtby came off balance after traffic in front and left a wide open net for Smith to score.
The Capitals trailed heading into the third period, but the heroics didn’t stop. Midway through the period, Brooks Orpik saved a clearing attempt and in one fluid motion fired a shot on net. The shot was intercepted by Devante Smith-Pelly. He corralled the puck and fired a shot past Fleury while falling. Game tied.
At the 7:37 mark of the third, the puck squeaked past Fleury and Lars Eller put it into a wide open net. A dejected Golden Knights squad couldn’t find the momentum to tie the game, despite Fleury being pulled for an extra attacker with two minutes left and after a clock malfunction that delayed the Caps’ coronation, that would be it.
Read it again, it’s true: The Washington Capitals are the 2018 Stanley Cup Champions.