There have been some memorable games and performances in the 20-plus-year history of Capital One Arena, which opened as MCI Center with a Wizards win over the Sonics on Dec. 2, 1997 that does not rank anywhere near the top. (No disrespect to Tracy Murray, who tied a team-high with 18 points off the bench.)
The Chinatown venue played host to the NBA All-Star Game in 2001. Michael Jordan scored 51 points as a 38-year-old against the Hornets in December of that year. In 2006, Georgetown toppled Duke No. 1 Duke during the regular season and George Mason clinched a spot in the Final Four with an upset win over U-Conn. a couple months later. Gilbert Arenas dropped 51 points, including a game-winning three at the buzzer, on Martin Luther King Day in 2007. Bruce Boudreau’s Caps clinched a division title and a playoff berth on the last day of the 2008 regular season. Sergei Fedorov threatened to blow the roof off the Verizon Center when he scored the game-winning goal late in the third period of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Rangers in 2009. Just last year, John Wall buried a game-winning three-pointer to beat the Celtics in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a moment that forced a Game 7 the Wizards would ultimately lose on the road.
Given the stakes, the Capitals’ dominating, but tense 3-0 win Monday to stave off elimination against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals topped all of the aforementioned days and nights as the greatest in Capital One Arena history. It was also probably the loudest the building’s ever been.
The celebration after the Capitals moved to within one win of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup Finals berth since 1998 spilled into the streets surrounding the arena, where fans gathered on the steps of the National Portrait Gallery as they did after Washington took a three-games-to-two lead against the Penguins in the second round.
Regardless of what happens Wednesday in Tampa Bay, Monday was a great night — among the greatest, actually — to be a Capitals fan, and especially memorable for those who were there to see it in Chinatown.
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