On June 4, 1998 — 7,293 days ago — Joe Juneau’s overtime goal in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals at Buffalo’s Marine Midland Arena advanced the Washington Capitals to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history.
Before the game, Capitals Coach Ron Wilson compared clinching a berth in the Stanley Cup finals to Apollo 11 landing on the moon.
“I guess everybody wants to be the hero in a game like this,” said Juneau, who earned a degree in aeronautical engineering. “I looked at them just before we went into the overtime and told assistant coach Tim Army he was looking at Neil Armstrong. It’s good to put a little pressure on yourself and try to do it. This is the goal that brings you into the finals. It is the biggest deal.”
Two days after the Capitals lost to the Sabres in Game 5 with a chance to close out the series at home, first-year Capitals General Manager George McPhee had a sense that Washington would finish the job in Buffalo.
“I was really confident tonight,” he said. “I really felt like we were going to win. I don’t know how to explain it. I just had a feeling.”
(It would’ve been more difficult to explain to McPhee that, 20 years later, he would be the first-year general manager of an expansion team in Las Vegas preparing to face the Capitals in their second trip to the Stanley Cup finals.)
The following day, the Capitals shared the front page with legendary Washington Post scribe Shirley Povich, who died of a heart attack at age 92 on the night of Juneau’s goal. Povich officially retired in 1974 but had continued to write occasional columns. He filed his last piece, which ran in the Sports section alongside a tribute from fellow Post columnist Thomas Boswell, a day before his death.
In other news from the day after the Capitals clinched their first trip to the Stanley Cup finals …
… 17-year-old Venus Williams was preparing to face her 16-year-old sister, Serena, in the mixed doubles final at the French Open.
… Evander Holyfield and Henry Akinwande were set to fight for the world heavyweight championship.
… The Red Sox roughed up Sidney Ponson to snap the Orioles’ three-game winning streak with a 9-1 win at Fenway Park.
… The Expos had an off day ahead of an interleague series against the Tampa Bay Rays — er, Devil Rays.
… Hideo Nomo was traded to the New York Mets a few days after the Dodgers designated him for assignment.
… The Jazz led the Bulls, 1-0, in the NBA Finals.
… Real Quiet was the heavy favorite to win the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown. He would lose to Victory Gallop.
… Computer City was celebrating its grand opening.