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.
And right before Ovechkin hoisted the Stanley Cup http://www.eaglesauthorizedshops.com/authentic-avonte-maddox-jersey
, 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 very first time.
”It doesn’t matter what happened before,” Ovechkin said through his gap-toothed grin. ”We just won it.”
Lars Eller scored the tiebreaking goal with 7:37 to play, and the Capitals claimed their first NHL title with a 4-3 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.
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 of the Capitals’ fourth consecutive victory over the Golden Knights.
”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 Authentic Adam Boqvist Jersey
, I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’m so happy. It’s unbelievable.”
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 postseason failure, these Caps 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.
”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 one final time. ”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. And we finally did it.”
After Ovechkin accepted the Conn Smythe Trophy, he received the Cup from NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. Ovechkin shouted ”Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!” before skating away and hoisting the prize over his head for a victory lap in front of thousands of red-clad fans.
When a succession of teammates finally got the Cup back to Ovi http://www.cardinalsauthorizedshops.com/authentic-josh-rosen-jersey
, 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 and a potential free agent without a contract for next season.
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. 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, who won seven of their first eight home playoff games before dropping the last two.
”When you get this close to the Cup http://www.panthersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-rashaan-gaulden-jersey
, it’s hard,” Fleury said. ”Doesn’t happen too often. It’s very disappointing.”
The defeat ended the storybook inaugural season of the Golden Knights, who became the NHL’s 31st franchise last fall and immediately launched into arguably the greatest debut in modern pro sports history. Few expected the division title they delivered, and fewer still thought Vegas could challenge for a championship.
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.
”It means everything,” Eller said. ”You couldn’t write the story better. If you’re going to win on the road, I couldn’t imagine a better place to do it.”
Forward T.J. Oshie spent a moment in the celebration looking up for his father, Tim http://www.49ersauthorizedshops.com/authentic-tarvarius-moore-jersey
, who he said was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
”He doesn’t remember a lot of stuff, but he’s going to remember this,” Oshie said. ”I’ve never seen a team come together like we did here. I’ve never seen the commitment from start to finish like we had here.”
Washington’s win was its 10th on the road in this postseason, tying the NHL playoff record and illustrating the superior toughness of this team. While past editions of the Caps created their team’s reputation for postseason flops in part by losing five playoff series in which they had won three of the first four games, Ovechkin’s latest group promptly closed out all four of its series this year on the very first try.
The Caps also came back from series deficits in all four rounds and clinched all four series on the road.
The remarkable Golden Knights hadn’t lost four consecutive games in their entire inaugural season before the Caps rolled them.
”It’s going to be a tough couple days,” Vegas defenseman Deryk En
The Latest on NBA free agency (all times EDT):
Nik Stauskas is officially a member of the Portland Trail Blazers, after signing his one-year, $1.6 million contract.
The team announced the move Thursday.
Stauskas agreed to the contract quickly after the start of free agency. Even though the NBA’s offseason moratorium does not end until 12:01 p.m. EDT Friday Jalyn Holmes Color Rush Jersey
, signings like the deal for Stauskas and the one former NBA MVP Derrick Rose completed with the Minnesota Timberwolves on Wednesday are permitted under the league’s collective bargaining agreement. Short-term minimum-salary signings can be completed before the moratorium is lifted.
Portland will be Stauskas’ fourth team in his five NBA seasons. He’s a career 35 percent 3-point shooter.
”Nik is a versatile and talented perimeter player that will seamlessly fit into our style of play,” Portland general manager Neil Olshey said.
Nemanja Bjelica is moving from Minnesota to Philadelphia.
A person familiar with the negotiations says Bjelica has agreed to a one-year contract with the 76ers worth nearly $4.5 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal has not been announced.
Bjelica gives Philadelphia more shooting depth, needed in an offseason where the 76ers lost Ersan Ilyasova and Marco Belinelli.
Bjelica shot 42 percent from 3-point range last season, his best clip in his three NBA years. The 30-year-old Serbian had a long career in Europe before coming to the NBA with Minnesota in 2015.
He was originally drafted by Washington in 2010.
– Reporting by AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds in Las Vegas.