For the first time in 2018, the Stanley Cup was in the building. A few hours later, it was in the hands of the Washington Capitals.
After a tight first period, the second period featured a combined five goals. This blew things wide open, and the Vegas Golden Knights carried a one-goal lead into the third.
Unfortunately for them, the Caps weren’t done; a pair of Washington goals in the third period finished off Vegas’ bid at a championship. Devante-Smith Pelly tied the game, and Lars Eller scored the winner.
Historic Season Ends with Wild Stanley Cup Finale
For both teams, this series had a “first- Stanley Cup Championship” on the line. The Golden Knights, in their inaugural season, landed here in historic (and highly publicized) fashion. On the other hand, the Capitals faced their second crack at the elusive championship, having been swept 20 years ago in their only other Stanley Cup Finals appearance.
One way or another, the hockey world was getting quite the show, and not just the Panic! at the Disco pregame show.
The Knights’ Cinderella season that shocked the professional sports world came to a screeching halt against the Capitals tonight. A long run ended with a 4-3 victory for the Caps, earning them a series victory in Game Five.
Game Summary: Stanley Cup Heads to D.C.
Goaltenders and defense dominated the first period, which ended scoreless. Holtby stopped all seven shots he faced, while his Vegas counterpart Marc-Andre Fleury stopped all nine. In regards to quality, Fleury made a few big saves and looked sharp in the Knights’ first elimination game of the playoffs.
Wide Open Scoring in Second Period
The Washington Capitals finally broke through six minutes into the second period. Jakub Vrana sprung onto a breakaway, burying the game’s icebreaker goal past Fleury’s glove. Three minutes later, Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith picked up assists on the game-tying goal from Nate Schmidt. A seeing-eye point shot found its way behind Holtby, who had no chance to see, let alone stop, the shot.
The tie lasted all of 34 seconds, as Ovechkin quickly potted a powerplay goal after Brayden McNabb found his way to the box for tripping. Already on their third powerplay of the game, the Caps were sure to make the third time the charm.
Seesaw Battle Continues
Another goal came from Vegas a few minutes later, bringing the game back to a tie. David Perron buried his first goal of the postseason. The goal, which Washington challenged, came after Tomas Tatar fired a rebound at the net, while Perron and Holtby came in some contact with one another.
The puck went into the net with Perron, who inevitably made last contact with the puck before it crossed the line. Therefore, technically he scored the goal (although I’m sure their team is properly crediting Tatar, who served as a healthy scratch for the first portion of the series).
Scoring chances grew on both ends of the ice, as both teams had close calls. After the Caps caught the post behind Fleury, and Fleury stopped a couple secondary chances, Vegas received their second powerplay opportunity of the game.
Ovechkin dove and tripped up William Karlsson to break up a potential 2-on-1 chance, which unfortunately led to Smith scoring a powerplay goal.
Third Period: ALL CAPS
Fleury stood on his head for the first half of the third, thwarting every solid opportunity the Capitals could find. Washington finally broke him though, as playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly tied it up at three a piece. Lars Eller then poked home another goal with only seven minutes left to regain the lead for the Caps.
Between the goals, Fleury made multiple massive saves to keep his team alive. Vegas may have been taking similar amounts of shots, but the quality of their opportunities was far worse. The Caps worked and earned tons of second and third chance opportunities, while forcing Vegas to stay limited to long range and poor angle shots. Their defensive play shone through in the third, proving to be too much for Vegas to even the score.
Wrapping It Up
Although it goes without saying, this championship means the world to the Capitals franchise. This season finally saw the team reach the Eastern Conference Finals in the Ovechkin-era, and thankfully they continued to push even after getting over that hump. This marks not only the city’s first Stanley Cup, but D.C.’s first professional sports championship.
It feels long overdue too, considering the fact that this team has been considered contenders for the better part of the past decade. Every season ended almost identically, with a first or second round exit and major disappointment. Just as it seemed their window may have been closing, they broke through.
Vegas Holds their Heads High
The Knights, on the other end, felt the most difficult feeling in hockey. Losing in the Stanley Cup Final is harder than any other loss, as it is as close as one can get to lifting the Cup without any reward.
However, this team shattered all expectations a very long time ago. The fact they were still playing hockey in early June, let alone late April when the postseason began, is beyond incredible.
Next Up, the Off-season
Like I said, we got quite the show as hockey fans this year. A new Stanley Cup Champion, a new franchise with some unexpected elite skill and potential, and a million other good stories came out of 2017-18. With the league’s expansion to Seattle looking more and more probable, there’s only more excitement on the horizon.
For now, its time to turn our attention to the Entry Draft, Free Agency, and all things off-season.
The Conn Smythe Trophy went to Alex Ovechkin. He led the playoffs with 15 goals, setting a new franchise record in the process.
Congrats to the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights on an incredible season. Ovi, you and your team earned this one. Very much deserved, hope you all enjoy your day with the best trophy in sports.