The Capitals defeated the two-time defending Pittsburgh Penguins in six games, 4-2, in the Eastern Conference Finals and advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. The most notable vet of the bunch was Alexander Ovechkin, but T.J. Oshie is another key Capitals star whose career had been full of postseason disappointment until this year.
An exciting game from start to finish, both teams traded goals in the second period before Reilly Smith gave Vegas a 3-2 lead heading into the third.
According to oddsmakers, the Golden Knights are a -145 favorite on the moneyline.
"We've been waiting a long time for this, with each other, and it's great", Backstrom said.
"Whatever. Cars. Hotels. You know, Vegas".
The Raiders and the National Football League will arrive in 2020 and Las Vegas as a sports community will change forever, but never will Southern Nevada experience the sort of journey a hockey team took it on the past nine months.
With one more victory, Ovechkin would finally have team success to complement his formidable individual accomplishments.
Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis is expecting a massive celebration following the first Stanley Cup win in franchise history.
It's enough to tighten anybody's grip on the stick, but the Caps didn't appear overly tight during their workout or in the dressing room afterward. "Probably the best time in my life, hockey-wise". We just realized we're going to win this year. I am in no way saying the Caps "lucked" their way into winning that series.
So did the Capitals' agonizing wait for their first championship since the franchise's debut in 1974. "He's not the only one", said defenseman John Carlson. Sick of not getting it done.
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Alex Ovechkin is a Stanley Cup champion at last, and he has another piece of hardware too. We also have been told that they're not THAT Caps team, that they're different, and that their focus is on finishing the job this year.
Who knows what happens if that puck doesn't bounce off Eller and Zach Werenski into the goal.
Washington is a big sports town and fans were particularly hungry because the last major crown here was the Washington Redskins' 1992 win in the Super Bowl.
Washington, D.C., has had, by some measures, among the most miserable sports fans in the United States. "I thought we would be decent, we'd make the playoffs and do fine, but not to this level", he said on the ice Thursday.
"Since Day 1 of training camp, we really play for each other, we work for each other and we really try to help the young guys, older guys - it doesn't matter", Kuznetsov said.
However, even if the Golden Knights do bow out on Thursday night they have achieved something that nearly no other team in the National Hockey League has ever done, making it to the Stanley Cup finals in their expansion year.
- The Golden Knights have lost three games in a row for the first time since February 26th - March 2nd.
"Pretty disappointed and dejected obviously", said Vegas head coach Gerard Gallant.
"It's not the first adversity we've faced this year", forward Jonathan Marchessault said. The Game 5 loss was far from the no-show seen so often from mentally broken teams in closeout games against an opponent that's dominated the series. "We were together. It was whole, one team". He converted a crossing pass by Nicklas Backstrom with a one-timer from the edge of the left circle that bounced in off Fleury's pad.