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It’s Not a Desert Mirage: An Oral History of the Capitals vs. Golden Knights Game 5 (Part 2)

One year ago, history was made. One year ago, the drought ended. One year ago, the Caps became Stanley Cup Champs.

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

Forty minutes had passed in Game 5 and the Caps found themselves trailing by a goal.

It was time for heroes to emerge, and emerge they did.

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


So... where were we?

Start of 3rd period

All postseason long, the Caps have been putting to bed old choking habits and exorcising those all-too-familiar demons. But up 3-1 in their series, with a chance to capture the Cup in five games, they now find themselves trailing 3-2 after two periods, and the question starts to creep in: do they have the killer instinct? Can they finish off this final series?

A rollercoaster of a third holds the answer.

3rd period, 10:08 remaining

At some point as a Caps fan you lose track of how many times the other team has gotten that lucky bounce and converted over the years, how often the Caps’ playoff hopes have hinged on a single play that seems to defy logic and embody luck.

Through the first three-and-a-half rounds, however, those bounces have mostly been going the Caps’ way. And that (along with just some damn hard work and skill) continues in Game 5.

Demons of series’ past... meet Devante Smith-Pelly.

John Walton’s call

Getty Images

DSP is the hero, but he owes a bit to the silky-smooth mitts of one Brooks Orpik.

Brooks Orpik managed to keep in the puck on the blue line as Vegas attempted to clear the zone. He flung it back into the zone past the defense and right to the skates of Smith-Pelly. Smith-Pelly kicked the puck out in front of him then dove to shoot it past the outstretched pad of Marc-Andre Fleury. (NBCSW, 6/8/18)

It’s a brand new ballgame.

3rd period, 7:37 remaining

We’ve barely had time to process the awesomeness that was Devante Smith-Pelly’s game-tying goal when more magic happens.

John Walton’s call

From behind the Vegas net, Andre Burakovsky made a centering feed for Brett Connolly in the high slot. Connolly fired, and Vegas goalie Marc-Andre Fleury – who came out above the paint to cut down Connolly’s angle – made the stop, but not securely. Eller was behind Fleury; he promptly spotted and potted he loose puck into the vacated cage to put the Caps up 4-3, their third one-goal lead of the night, and the one that wasn’t getting away.

It wasn’t a pretty goal, but to a city and a region that has waited nearly half a century for this night, it was as gorgeous as they come. - Mike Vogel (Dump ‘n Chase, 6/8/18)

Mayhem in DC, and mayhem in Denmark, where a small but devoted group of fans in his hometown are glued to the screen.

“There are people watching in the middle of the night in a movie theater over in Denmark, because their guy, Lars Eller, is trying to become the first native of Denmark to win the Stanley Cup,” NBC play-by-play man Mike Emrick said at the start of the second period.

Brian Poulsen was among those people. The 39-year-old newspaper photographer gathered with roughly 80 other hockey fans at the Atlas Bio theater in Rodovre, Eller’s home town of 37,000 located just outside of Copenhagen, to watch a Danish feed of the game. Poulsen, who used to play hockey with Eller’s two older brothers, said the mood inside the theater was fairly relaxed, perhaps owing to the fact that the puck dropped at 2:22 a.m. local time. The mayor of Rodovre was in attendance, as were a few of Eller’s relatives. (Washington Post, 6/8/18)

The go-ahead goal for the Caps means it’s time for someone to get all gussied up... just in case its presence is requested on the ice.

Hello, gorgeous.

And now... we wait.

3rd period, 2:37 remaining

It is ALL HANDS ON DECK as the Caps look to hold onto their one-goal lead.

3rd period, 28.6 seconds remaining

...we think.

Time never moves slower than when you want it to just fly by, and the last few minutes of regulation are painfully slow. So slow, in fact that at one point time appears to stand still.

Actually, it does stand still. Because the clock stops.

Wait... the clock STOPS??

We’re so busy worrying about how much time is left that we almost - almost - don’t have time to panic about Nicklas Backstrom missing the empty net and failing to score a goal that could have iced the game and saved us all from a million heart attacks.

...don’t worry, Ovechkin’s got us all covered.

(But still has all the love in the world for his Swedish buddy.)

Missed empty-netters, frozen clocks... none of it matters because the final seconds are about to tick down.

And the Caps.

Have won.

THE STANLEY CUP.

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

“It was like we were a bunch of 10 year olds that just won their first hockey tournament. It was like we were a bunch of little kids again. Amazing. Amazing.” - Matt Niskanen (NHL.com, 6/8/18)

The celebration on the ice is electric and amazing and the most beautiful outpouring of emotion you’ll ever see.

Salute to the Vegas Knights, a worthy opponent.

Could you make a case for anyone but Alex Ovechkin earning the Conn Smythe Trophy? Perhaps. Was it still absolutely the right call to give it to Ovechkin in the end? 100%.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

After the hugs and the handshakes and the Conn Smythe, it’s time.

At last.

“The great fans in Washington DC have waited over 40 years for this moment. [...] Capitals, you’ve had years of frustration... but here is the grandest celebration. You get to hoist the Stanley Cup. Alex Ovechkin, it’s your honor! Come on up!” - Gary Bettman

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

As is tradition, each of the players gets to lift the Cup in a ceremony filled with meaning.

This was what they dreamed about, from frozen ponds to frigid rinks, from Minnesota to Manitoba to Moscow, from peewee leagues to junior hockey to the minors and, finally, to right here, inside T-Mobile Arena in the last hours of Thursday night.

It didn’t involve a stick or a puck or even the skates that carried them this far. There were just 27 pairs of hands, waiting to hold the Stanley Cup. The Washington Capitals had just won it, and now each player had a chance to skate with the silver trophy and raise it above his head.

The passing of the Stanley Cup is ceremonial and follows some convention. The captain, more often than not, passes it to his alternate captains, who pass it to key veterans, who pass it to key young players, who pass it down the roster until everyone has had a turn. But many of the exchanges have deeper meaning, linking lifelong friends in a once-in-a-lifetime moment that can never be taken away. (Washington Post, 6/8/18)

Once more around the rink (er, watch out for those headlights)...

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

and it’s time to kick this celebration up a notch in the locker room...

...where the champagne is flowing...

...and the first of many renditions of “We Are the Champions” is belted out.

Because they are.

2018 NHL Stanley Cup Final - Game Five Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Forever.