Eller was quickest to a loose puck sitting behind after Brett Connolly’s initial shot went off Knights defenceman Colin Miller and squeezed through the Vegas goalie for his seventh goal of the playoffs. The Knights tried to write one more chapter in their improbable expansion season, but were unable to find a way as the Capitals spilled on the ice to celebrate the first Cup in their 44-year history.
'This is like a dream,' said Washington captain. 'It was a long, hard season. We fought through it.
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We worked so hard, through all the years. It was together, all one team, sticking to the system. 'We didn’t panic.
Even after the second period we knew we just had to push it in and get the result done.' Ovechkin scored his 15th goal of the post-season and was given the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. It was also the first Stanley Cup of his and head coach Barry Trotz’s careers. Jakub Vrana and Devante Smith-Pelly also scored for the Capitals. Stopped 28 shots. 'It means everything.
This moment, we’ve been waiting a long, long time,' said Ovechkin. 'It’s something special. I’m just very excited and very happy right now.' Reilly Smith, with a goal and an assist, Nate Schmidt and David Perron replied for Vegas. Fleury made 29 saves. The Capitals had not advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs since the 1998 Cup final when they were swept by Detroit, but defeated Columbus, arch-rival Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay before downing expansion Vegas this spring.
Smith-Pelly tied the game 3-3 at 9:52 of the third period when he stopped Brooks Orpik’s point shot with his skate and slide his seventh goal of the playoffs beyond an outstretched Fleury. Smith snapped a 2-2 tie on a power play for Vegas with 28.2 seconds left in an action-packed second, taking a no-look pass from Alex Tuch after Holtby spilled Shea Theodore’s point shot to score his fifth goal of the playoffs.
Emotions boiled over immediately after the puck entered the net, with Orpik and Knights forward William Karlsson in the middle of the fracas as Vegas took a lead in the series for the first time since 17:26 of the first period of Game 2. The Knights came close to stretching that advantage early in the third, but Holtby came up with some big stops to keep his team within one inside a raucous T-Mobile Arena. The Capitals went to the power play later in the period, but Fleury was there to stone Ovechkin on a one-timer before Smith Pelly evened things. With the victory, the Capitals ended 26 years of misery for fans of Washington’s four major sports teams dating back to the Redskins’ 1992 Super Bowl victory. The Capitals had an especially rough history leading into this spring’s triumph after joining the league in 1974-75. Washington, which stills owns the worst expansion record of any team in NHL history at 8-67-5, failed to make the playoffs in its first eight seasons and endured a number of playoff heartbreaks.
The Capitals had previously blown 3-1 leads in a playoff series five times — the most of any club — and had never picked up a victory in the final before Game 2 against Vegas. For the Knights, the loss will sting, but also do nothing to the bond the team forged with its fanbase in the wake unspeakable evil on Oct. 1 — some eight days before their first regular-season home game — when a gunman killed 58 people and injured hundreds more at an outdoor concert just over a kilometre from T-Mobile Arena. A team of castoffs that called themselves 'The Golden Misfits' came together to stun the hockey world by topping the Pacific Division with an astounding 109 points before breezing through the first three rounds of the Western Conference playoffs with a 12-3 record.
Vegas, which won Game 1 before dropping the next three, lost four straight for the first time in franchise’s brief yet memorable history. Following a scoreless opening 20 minutes, the Capitals got on the board 6:24 into the what would become a frantic second when Vrana moved in alone on Fleury and fired his third of playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov picked up and assist, bringing his NHL-high post-season point total to 32. Facing elimination for the first time in their history, the Knights tied it at 9:40 when Schmidt’s point shot deflected off the skate of Washington defenceman defenceman Matt Niskanen in front for his third.