Sat, Jun 09, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Capitals win Stanley Cup

TIME STOOD STILL:The phrase was not just rhetorical for the Caps’ first Cup in their history — the scoreboards froze in the final minutes, delaying their celebrations

AP, LAS VEGAS

The Washington Capitals pose with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday in Las Vegas.

Photo: AFP

Alex Ovechkin put both hands to his head and screamed while he left the bench and skated into the thick of the Washington Capitals’ joyous celebration.

Right before he hoisted the Stanley Cup, the Washington captain put both hands on his head again in a gesture of disbelieving ecstasy.

You can believe it, Ovi. So can the Washington fans whose championship drought is finally over.

After striving through 13 of his franchise’s 43 seasons, the Russian superstar and the long-suffering Capitals are sitting on top of hockey for the first time.

“It doesn’t matter what happened before,” Ovechkin said. “We just won it.”

Lars Eller scored the tiebreaking goal with 7 minutes, 37 seconds to play, and the Capitals claimed their first NHL title with a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Ovechkin capped his playoff MVP campaign with an early power-play goal, and Devante Smith-Pelly tied it with a full-stretch goal midway through the final period.

“We did it,” said Ovechkin, whose 15 playoff goals set a franchise record. “That’s all that matters. Look at the smiles on my teammates. This is something you’ll never forget.”

Vegas’ incredible expansion season finally ended, and so did the Capitals’ wait for a title since their debut in 1974, but after so many years of crushing disappointment for a team with a lengthy history of post-season failure, these Caps confidently won their closeout game with a tenacious third-period comeback in Vegas.

“It doesn’t come easy,” said goalie Braden Holtby, who made 28 saves while outplaying three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury in the opposite net. “It took years. Years of heartbreak. Years of breaking things down and trying again, breaking things down and trying again, and this group never gave up.”

“I’m so happy for the group that has gone through the misery,” said Washington coach Barry Trotz, a first-time champ in his 19th season behind an NHL bench and a potential free agent without a contract for next season.

However, the Caps could not win a Cup without a little late weirdness: The game clock stopped working on the T-Mobile Arena scoreboards during the final minutes, and the Capitals angrily protested while they played.

Vegas never got close to a tying goal, despite both teams getting an extra chance to rest while the officials checked on the timing. The clock finally hit zeros, allowing the Caps to storm the ice behind their net for a frenzied celebration.

Reilly Smith scored a go-ahead goal late in the second period for the Golden Knights.

Nate Schmidt and David Perron also scored deflection goals for Vegas in the second period, but Fleury’s 29 saves included a stopped puck that dropped underneath him where Eller could sweep it home for the Cup-winning goal.

Forward T.J. Oshie spent a moment in the celebration looking up for his father, Tim, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

“He doesn’t remember a lot of stuff, but he’s going to remember this,” Oshie said.

Washington’s win was their 10th on the road in this post-season, tying the NHL playoff record. They also came back from series deficits in all four rounds and clinched all four series on the road.

The remarkable Golden Knights had not lost four consecutive games in their entire inaugural season before the Caps rolled them.

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