The Washington Capitals arrived at Nationals Park on Saturday not long after the black trunk with their beloved Stanley Cup, both parties understandably worn down after 36 hours of celebrating their new union. The hulking chalice shined as ever, though the Capitals looked slightly worse for wear, several sporting sunglasses. Rookie Christian Djoos was wearing a “Djoos Is Loose” T-shirt — because T.J. Oshie bought it off a fan he saw wearing it outside of the team’s practice facility that afternoon.
Have they slept since winning the franchise’s first championship in Las Vegas on Thursday night?
“Here and there,” center Nicklas Backstrom said.
“Not much,” defenseman John Carlson said. “A couple naps.”
It has taken Washington 44 years to parade the Stanley Cup around, and from the moment captain Alex Ovechkin lifted it for a first time, the Capitals have embraced partying with the iconic trophy while showing it off to the city. Before the Nationals’ 7-5 win over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday afternoon, Ovechkin proudly carried it out of the Nationals clubhouse to cheers before lifting it over his head and kissing the silver. He then threw out the first pitch with Max Scherzer catching, and in a story fitting for the Capitals, his first attempt missed, so he tried again.
“Too excited, too strong,” Ovechkin said. “I try to do my best. … It was hard, but I think I did a nice job, a good job. So we’re all good.”
“Bad pitching,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “I told him I should throw the ball. He goes, ‘I’m good at it.’ That’s not good. So, I said I’d do it. It was good.
“One thing I like about Ovi doing that terrible first pitch — plus he didn’t have any shoes to throw in — but what I did like is he wanted another throw. And that was sort of maybe a little bit symbolic to where he’s come, where the pitch failed. Instead of, ‘That’s enough,’ he said, ‘No, give me another shot at it.’ And he took another shot and did much better. So, I’m proud of him for that. And that’s probably maybe a little symbolic that that ball went that way. But he’s got to work on his pitching.”
Ovechkin then carried the Stanley Cup around the diamond, interrupting Giants infielder Evan Longoria’s attempt to warm up before the actual first pitch. As Ovechkin, Backstrom and Carlson sat down for a news conference minutes later, Ovechkin asked a team staffer for water. After several questions had been asked — and halfheartedly answered — Backstrom looked to his left and started laughing. “Russian machine never breaks,” Backstrom said, referencing Ovechkin’s famous quote.
Carlson then smirked. “Oh, he’s breaking,” he said. Ovechkin continued to drink his bottle of water.
“I’m just the Cup-holder right now,” Ovechkin said.
MASN on-field reporter Dan Kolko later interviewed Ovechkin and right wing Tom Wilson in the team’s suite at the ballpark. Halfway through Ovechkin’s answer, Wilson leaned into the microphone and starting singing “We Are The Champions” with Ovechkin. Wilson then poured beer down his throat before dumping some on left wing Andre Burakovsky. At one point, Ovechkin stood at the edge of his suite and raised the Stanley Cup over his head, though the jumbotron didn’t show him because the ball was still in play. The Capitals eventually made it onto the big screen, dancing to “I’m Sexy And I Know It.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby held up the Stanley Cup when the camera flashed to the Capitals after the seventh-inning stretch. Players lifted up their drinks with arms around each other’s shoulders as “We Are The Champions” played. Oshie lifted his shirt over his head and took a shot through the fabric.
The Nationals had been some of the Capitals’ biggest cheerleaders during the championship run, donning “ALLCAPS” shirts and hats. The two teams posed around the trophy in the clubhouse before the game, and though Nationals Manager Davey Martinez and Trotz had texted often, they hadn’t met until Saturday out of superstition. Martinez asked Trotz to address his team.
“As I was saying when we got the chance to meet them and we brought the Cup in there, we want them to have that same positive vibe,” Trotz said. “It’s so important for a team to have that sort of ‘I love coming to work’ attitude, which our guys did, and you can do some pretty special things. So, just let them know there’s no curse or anything — it’s all gone, we checked all the boxes — and I wanted to give them a real positive vibe, not only to the Nats but all the sports teams in this area.”
Before the Capitals’ party with the Stanley Cup raged on, Backstrom looked ahead to Tuesday, when his teammates and their new trophy will again be in the spotlight with a parade down Constitution Avenue.
“It’s going to be amazing,” he said. “I’ve been dreaming about this since I started playing here and driving down Constitution every game, and it always popped into my head that one time we’re going to have a parade here and finally that day is here. It’s going to be amazing — not just for us, for the city of Washington I think that has waited a long time for this. It’s going to be great to share that with them.”
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