Capitals top Las Vegas 4-3 to win their first Stanley Cup

Marcus Newton
June 8, 2018

United States president Donald Trump has personally congratualed Washington Capitals" captain Alexander Ovechkin after the Russian led the caps to a historic first Stanley Cup win, branding "Ovi' a "superstar".

Trailing three games to one, they have to win at home in Las Vegas on Thursday night to stay alive in the best-of-seven series; a loss and the Washington Capitals will lift Lord Stanley's venerable Cup for the first time in their 44-year history. Marc-Andre Fleury made 29 saves for Vegas. Smith-Pelly signed with the Capitals as a free agent last summer after the New Jersey Devils bought out the final season of his two-year, US$2.6-million contract.

The Washington Capitals captain won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs after leading his team with 15 goals this postseason.

After a tight first period, five goals were scored in the second as Jakub Vrana opened the scoring for the Capitals.

Reilly Smith had a goal and an assist, and Nate Schmidt and David Perron also scored for the Golden Knights. On his way down to the ice, his skate made contact with the back of goalie Braden Holtby's foot. They got clutch goaltending from Brayden Holtby, including his miracluous paddle save off Alex Tuch in Game 2 that seems to be the turning point of the series when viewed in the rear-view mirror.

"When you get this close to the Cup, it's hard", Fleury said.

This is their first 3-1 lead at any point in this year's postseason, and any amount of success from Vegas is sure to inspire just the slightest bit of doubt.

He was instrumental in Washington's 6-2 demolition of the Golden Knights in Game 4, when he registered four assists to tie a single-game Stanley Cup Final record.

Devante Smith-Pelly corrals the puck before shooting it past Fleury to tie game 3-3 in the third period.

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Back home in D.C., fans will be cheering on their team at Capital One Arena in a watch party that sold out in about 20 minutes.

But this year's playoffs would be different, right from the start.

This was the first expansion draft in the NHL since 2000, when the Columbus Blue Jackets and Minnesota Wild entered the league but was wildly more successful - both those teams finished bottom of their respective divisions in their inaugural seasons.

In the final minute of the second period, Reilly Smith scored on a lovely Alex Tuch pass to put the Knights up 3-2. Prior to this season, the Capitals had lost five series when leading 3-1, the most in the National Hockey League. It's impressive the way he scores goal and the way he worked out there.

"We did it", said Ovechkin, whose 15 playoff goals set a franchise record. There's nothing better than the first (except maybe the next).

With temperatures hitting 37 C outside T-Mobile Arena, the heat was turned up before the opening faceoff as Ovechkin and Fleury exchanged not-so-friendly love taps near centre ice in warmups, but nothing really materialized out of the exchange.

Vegas had a slight edge in the number of chances, with a couple of bouncing pucks in and around Holtby's crease, but Washington came closest to scoring when Ovechkin ripped a one timer off the post that stayed out on a power play from his patented spot near the left faceoff dot.

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.

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