The celebration was different this time, but no less jubilant. It should last at least until Monday, when the Capitals play the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of the STANLEY CUP FINALS.
Unlike the Capitals’ series-clinching Game 6 triumph against the Penguins in the second round, which came on an Evgeny Kuznetsov overtime winner that produced instantaneous joy far and wide, Washington’s 4-0 win in Game 7 at Tampa Bay to clinch the franchise’s second trip to hockey’s greatest stage — and first in 20 years — built to a crescendo as the seconds slowly…ticked…off…the… clock. (It took forever.)
Alex Ovechkin scored 62 seconds into the game. Andre Burakovsky’s pair of second-period goals extended the lead to 3-0. When Nicklas Backstrom scored an empty-net goal with less than four minutes remaining to give Washington a four-goal lead, even the most pessimistic of Capitals fans, scarred from years of playoff heartbreak, had to realize this was really happening. Washington had done the thing.
The ensuing reaction from fans — on social media, at home, in bars and outside Capital One Arena, where more than 10,000 people gathered to watch a road game — mirrored the one that spilled over the Capitals’ bench when the clock finally hit triple zeros, only with more tears.
Immerse yourself in the Capitals’ postseason with The Post’s coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs: