Cap­i­tals cap­ture first Stan­ley Cup ti­tle

Manteca Bulletin - - Sports -

LAS VE­GAS (AP) — Af­ter 43 sea­sons, the Washington Cap­i­tals are fi­nally sit­ting on top of hockey.

Lars Eller scored the tiebreak­ing goal with 7:37 to play, and the Cap­i­tals raised the Stan­ley Cup for the first time in fran­chise his­tory af­ter a 4-3 vic­tory over the Ve­gas Golden Knights in Game 5 on Thurs­day night.

Cap­tain Alex Ovechkin capped his play­off MVP cam­paign with a power-play goal, and De­vante Smith-Pelly tied it with a full-stretch goal mid­way through the fi­nal pe­riod of the Cap­i­tals’ fourth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory over the Golden Knights, whose in­cred­i­ble ex­pan­sion sea- son fi­nally ended in the desert.

So did the Cap­i­tals’ ag­o­niz­ing wait for their first cham­pi­onship since the fran­chise’s de­but in 1974. Af­ter so many years of crush­ing dis­ap­point­ment for a team with a lengthy his­tory of post­sea­son fail­ure, these Cap­i­tals con­fi­dently won their fourth con­sec­u­tive close­out game with a tena­cious third-pe­riod come­back in Ve­gas.

Ovechkin and his team­mates are Washington’s first cham­pi­onship hockey team — and their city’s first cham­pion in a ma­jor pro sport since the Red­skins won the Su­per Bowl in early 1992.

“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. This mo­ment, I’ll re­mem­ber for the rest of my life. I’m so happy. It’s un­be­liev­able.”

Af­ter Ovechkin ac­cepted the Conn Smythe Tro­phy, he re­ceived the Cup from NHL Com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman. Ovechkin shouted “Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” through his gap-toothed grin be­fore skat­ing away and hoist­ing the prize over his head for a vic­tory lap in front of thou­sands of red-clad fans.

When Ovi got the Cup back, he handed it to Ted Leon­sis, the Caps’ owner since 1999.

“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.

Af­ter Ve­gas won the Fi­nal opener, the Cap­i­tals capped their four-game surge by ral­ly­ing from a third-pe­riod deficit in this cathar­tic Game 5, ban­ish­ing any mem­ory of play­off fail­ure with clutch goals and rugged play across their lineup.

Braden Holtby made 28 saves in Game 5, out­play­ing three­time Stan­ley Cup cham­pion Marc-An­dre Fleury in the other net one fi­nal time.

“When you get this close to the Cup, it’s hard,” Fleury said. “Doesn’t hap­pen too of­ten. It’s very dis­ap­point­ing.”

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

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