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It’s Not a Desert Mirage: An Oral History of the Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 5 (Part 1)

A year ago today, the Caps made history.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

After a series-shifting Game 2 victory, the Capitals returned home to show Washington fans what a Stanley Cup Final win looked like - and then did it again in Game 4 to take a 3-1 lead. All that remained now was to head back to Vegas and capture that thing that had eluded the team for over four decades.

It wouldn’t be so easy, though. They’d need to shut out the distractions of Sin City, outwork a desperate Vegas team, and exorcise the last of the playoff demons...

Now one year later, a look back at the events leading up to the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.


When it comes to the Capitals, there’s nothing people like to bring up more than the tortured, tangled history of the franchise. So naturally with the team holding a 3-1 series lead, talk turns to the ghosts of the past.

While teams holding a 3-1 lead historically have a 32-1 advantage in the finals, including 31 straight, the Caps are a franchise that’s still haunted by playoff phantoms from years ago. There were the Islanders (1980s), the Penguins (1990s, 2000s and beyond), the Rangers and the Canadiens, too. All trailed Washington 3-1 in the playoffs, and all came back to spoil the Caps’ Cup hopes. (Washington Post, 6/5/18)

If it’s bothering the current crop of Caps, however, well... they’re not showing it. In fact, T.J. Oshie imparts a bit of wisdom on the naysayers.

“We don’t really dwell on the game before, let alone the things that happened in years past. There’s been heartbreak here, we know that. But I think that’s kind of scarred over and has made us a little stronger.” - T.J. Oshie (Washington Post, 6/5/18)

And if it’s getting to the fans, well... they’re not showing it, either. What they are showing is a lot of red as they take to the streets and fill up the stands of Capital One Arena, hoping to cheer the good guys on to a long-awaited victory.

NHL: Stanley Cup Final-Washington Capitals Watch Party Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

And it’s not confined to DC. There was a lot of red rocking in T-Mobile for Games 1 and 2, but that’s nothing compared to the crowd that has turned out hoping to see history in person.


Before the hockey can begin, there are important things to take care of.

And then there’s a little matter of the ongoing Ovechkin-Fleury warmup feud, which has ramped up a bit from the water fights of old.

Just a, uh, friendly rivalry... right?

8:22 p.m.
Start of 1st period

The Caps put nine shots on net and the Knights get seven on Holtby, but nothing happens.

The Caps get a power play, but nothing happens.

Tom Wilson kills some dudes, but nothing happens.

Twenty minutes in the books. Gee, maybe this’ll be a boring game...

End of 1st Period: Caps 0, Golden Knights 0

Start of 2nd period

2nd period, 13:36 remaining

The second period starts much like the first ended, with the two teams trading chances (and the Caps going to another fruitless power play) and yet having nothing to show for it.

And then a little less than halfway through the frame, the seal is broken thanks to Jakub Vrana’s filthy mitts.

John Walton’s call

As good as the Caps have become at hiding their true emotions, they do let a little bit slip out to celebrate the game’s opening strike. Y’know, just a teeny bit of emotion. Just a wee smidgen. Just a tad.

2nd period, 10:20 remaining

Unfortunately it doesn’t seem as though one goal is going to be enough, as just a few minutes later a series of lucky bounces gets the Golden Knights on the board - courtesy of a smiley old friend.

2nd period, 9:46 remaining

Just 11 seconds after Schmidt’s equalizer, the Knights decide that it’s a great time to take a penalty - so away to the box goes Brayden McNabb, two minutes for tripping.

With McNabb in the box, the Caps decide that it’s an even better time to get back on top. And before the last goal is even done being announced in-house, this happens:

John Walton’s call

With that goal, Alex Ovechkin does what Alex Ovechkin always does and sets a new franchise record — this time for goals in a single postseason.

(And we’ll try not to take it personally that so many of them have been away from Capital One.)

Ovechkin isn’t the only one putting up some seriously impressive numbers this postseason, as John Carlson continues to light things up in his own right.

2nd period, 7:04 remaining

Did we mention earlier that it wouldn’t be easy to get this last win? That Vegas is a desperate team prone to quick-response goals?

Just another few minutes after Ovechkin puts the Caps up 2-1, David Perron strikes to even things up again.

But wait, not so fast... was this goalie interference? Or just a little bit of overzealousness in battle by Caps’ blueliner Christian Djoos?

To the video review!

At 12:56 of the second period in the Capitals/Golden Knights game, Washington requested a Coach’s Challenge to review whether Vegas’ David Perron interfered with Washington goaltender Braden Holtby prior to his goal.

After reviewing all available replays and consulting with the Referee, the Situation Room confirmed that the actions of Washington’s Christian Djoos caused Perron to contact Holtby before the puck crossed the goal line. The decision was made in accordance with Note 2 of Rule 78.7 (ii) which states, in part, that the goal should be allowed because ”the attacking Player was pushed, shoved or fouled by a defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper.”

Therefore, the original call stands - good goal Vegas Golden Knights.

Since the Coach’s Challenge did not result in the original call being overturned, the Washington Capitals forfeit their time-out. - NHL


2nd period, 0:29 remaining

It’s often said that goals given up in the first minute of a period and the last minute of a period can be absolute daggers. So it’s not great when, with less than 30 seconds left in the second, Vegas’s Reilly Smith scores to give Vegas their first lead of the night.

Needless to say, the Caps are not amused and waste no time displaying their unhappiness at this turn of events.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

End of 2nd Period: Caps 2, Golden Knights 3

Stay tuned for Part 2 later today...