44 years of suffering over
In 1974 the Washington Capitals entered the NHL and the league grew. They have been a successful franchise with a solid fan base in the nation's capital, but never won the ultimate prize.
They made the Stanley Cup Final in 1998, but they were swept by the Detroit Red Wings. The series was never close and they never got to the big stage again... well, until 2018.
Washington has had great teams that never made it to the third round. They had one of the greatest goal scorers in the history of the National Hockey League in Alex Ovechkin but fell short every time.
The media called for general manager Brian MacLellan to rebuild the roster and start anew. He refused and it paid dividends when the Capitals beat the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 Thursday night.
Crazy game from start to finish
The Vegas Golden Knights knew it was a must win for them at home. They came out with a high level of intensity and were matching Washington hit for hit.
The play was end to end and it created opportunities for both sides. The first period was scoreless, Washington had 10 shots and Vegas had seven.
The second period was a different story when the floodgates opened.
6:24 in the second period Jakub Vrana opened the scoring for the Capitals. Deryk Engelland missed the net for Vegas and he had no backup and it led to a breakaway. Tom Wilson found Vrana on the wing and he buried the wrist over the glove of Marc-Andre Fleury.
Three minutes later Vegas responded. Nate Schmidt, a former Washington Capital, threw a shot to the net and it hit Matt Niskanen's skate and beat Braden Holtby five-hole.
Off the next faceoff, Alex Ovechkin got a burst of speed and tried to split the defense. Brayden McNabb then tripped him and it led to a power play. 34 seconds after Schmidt tied the game Alex Ovechkin put the Capitals ahead again.
Nick Backstrom made a perfect saucer pass cross ice and Ovechkin finished the opportunity. It was his 15th of the playoffs and he took over the franchise record for goals in one postseason.
The play then became frantic with Lars Eller getting a good scoring chance in one end, but the play flipped and Vegas tied the game. David Perron was jostling for position in front and he came in contact with Braden Holtby. Perron's skate hit Holtby and Washington challenged the play. The officials reviewed it and the goal counted.
The period was winding down and Ovechkin took a minor tripping penalty. The Knights were 0-7 in their last seven power play opportunities and they changed that statistic.
Reilly Smith buried his fifth of the postseason with 29 seconds remaining in the period after a gorgeous feed from Alex Tuch. The building was alive and it seemed the game changed.
Vegas controlled play for the first 10 minutes of the period and they had control of the game. Devante Smith-Pelly then chased down Shea Theodore into the zone and it created an opportunity. He threw the puck up the boards and Brooks Orpik threw it at the net. Devante went skate to stick (as he did in his Game 4 game-winner) and put it past the right pad of Marc-Andre Fleury... while he was falling.
The game was tied and the Capitals found a way to finish off the Knights. Lars Eller the forgotten man formerly of the Montreal Canadiens scored the game-winning goal.
Andre Burakovsky found Brett Connolly open in front and Fleury made the save. The puck went through his five-hole and Eller put it in the empty net using his inside position. It was his seventh of the playoffs and he capped off a career season.
The Capitals fought off the attack of Vegas the next six and half minutes and were crowned champions.
Ovechkin finally gets validation
Alex Ovechkin was selected first overall in the 2004 NHL draft and he has been a star since the first game he has played. He has over 600 goals but had never made it past the second round.
He won the Stanley Cup and also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. Alex's career did not need validation, but he has something now to put on his resume. He is a champion and has developed into a true leader over the last 14 years.
He yelled "yes" at the top of his lungs many times and he handed the Cup to Nick Backstrom first. He has been with Ovechkin from the beginning and they are the leaders of that group.
Vegas miracle run comes to an end
The Vegas Golden Knights inaugural season was great, and it ended with a Finals berth. They won Game 1 and competed hard, but Washington was just the better team.
The Knights have some decisions in the near future. James Neal and David Perron are unrestricted free agents and they have cap space to make deals.
John Tavares is a free agent and they can afford to put him on the books. They also may make a push at acquiring Erik Karlsson from the Ottawa Senators whom they tried to acquire at the trade deadline.
Games are done but not the drama
The NHL has the awards show in Vegas on June 20, and the NHL Entry Draft will be in Dallas on June 22 and 23. Free agency opens July 1, 2018.