Covering the Capitals

The Capitals entered the postseason without the crushing expectations of years past. Then something special happened, and the franchise found itself doing the unexpected: hoisting the Stanley Cup.
Story by
First round: Capitals vs. Blue Jackets

Game 1: Blue Jackets 4, Capitals 3 (OT) | April 12
The Blue Jackets’ Artemi Panarin beat Philipp Grubauer 6:02 into overtime after the Capitals squandered a two-goal first-period lead and then another one-goal lead in the final five minutes of regulation. Three penalties in the third period that led to two power-play goals undermined Evgeny Kuznetsov’s two first-period goals as the Capitals surrendered home-ice advantage in the series.

Game 2: Blue Jackets 5, Capitals 4 (OT) | April 15
The Capitals squandered 2-0 and 3-1 leads after Alex Ovechkin scored twice in the game’s first 25 minutes. Grubauer was pulled in favor of Braden Holtby after surrendering three goals in the second period that put Columbus ahead 4-3. After Washington’s T.J. Oshie tied the score with 3:35 left in regulation, Matt Calvert got the winner 12:22 into overtime to give the Blue Jackets a two-games-to-none lead headed back to Ohio.

Game 3: Capitals 3, Blue Jackets 2 (2OT) | April 17
Holtby, the former Vezina Award winner displaced as the No. 1 starter late in the regular season, stopped 33 of 35 shots, including nine in the two overtimes combined, to allow Washington to hang on. Lars Eller scored the winner nine minutes into the extra session.

Game 4: Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 1 | April 19
The Capitals tied the series with their most dominant effort of the playoffs to that point. They controlled play early, outshooting the Blue Jackets 25-15 while taking a 2-0 lead into the second intermission, and Holtby was sharp again, stopping 23 shots in all.

Game 5: Capitals 4, Blue Jackets 3 (OT) | April 21
Holtby made one spectacular save after another, and Nicklas Backstrom managed to tip Dmitry Orlov’s shot at just the right time, deflecting the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky 11:53 into overtime. The goal was Backstrom’s second of the game, and Washington killed off all five of its penalties to win its first home game of the playoffs and take its first lead in the series.

Game 6: Capitals 6, Blue Jackets 3 | April 23
After a tense start to the series, the Capitals made certain the deciding game would be relatively drama-free. Orlov scored the first goal 12:12 into the game, and Ovechkin scored twice in the second period to provide a 3-1 lead at second intermission. Washington won its fourth straight playoff game in the same series, three of which were on the road, for the first time since 1990 to advance to the second round for the fourth consecutive season, a first in franchise history.

[ The best photos from the Capitals’ run to the Stanley Cup ]

Second round: Capitals vs. Penguins

Game 1: Penguins 3, Capitals 2 | April 26
The Capitals again took a 2-0 lead in a series opener at home. They again ended in disappointment. ­The Penguins, who were without Evgeni Malkin and Carl Hagelin because of injuries, scored three goals over a five-minute stretch of the third period, with Jake Guentzel getting the winner after assisting on the first two.

Game 2: Capitals 4, Penguins 1 | April 29
This time after taking an early lead, the Capitals left no doubt. Alex Ovechkin scored 1:26 into the game, and Jakub Vrana and Brett Connolly followed to give Washington a 3-0 lead. And Braden Holtby stopped 32 of the 33 shots he faced to ensure the series would be tied headed to Pittsburgh.

Game 3: Capitals 4, Penguins 3 | May 1
A collision between Pittsburgh’s Brian Dumoulin and Washington’s Tom Wilson in Game 2 elevated tensions, and Wilson’s second-period hit that left Zach Aston-Reese with a concussion and a broken jaw ratcheted up the acrimony even higher. Ovechkin scored the winner with 1:07 left, knocking in his own rebound after a two-on-one with Nicklas Backstrom for Washington’s fourth straight road victory in these playoffs.

Game 4: Penguins 3, Capitals 1 | May 3
After the NHL announced a three-game suspension for Wilson before the game, the Capitals entered the contest angry. Pittsburgh took advantage of a Washington penalty for too many men on the ice, with Malkin diving for a rebound and knocking the puck in the direction of Holtby’s outstretched blocker. The series was tied returning to Washington.

Game 5: Capitals 6, Penguins 3 | May 5
With the score tied in the third period, Vrana followed Ovechkin down the ice, and after Ovechkin skated to the right of Pittsburgh goaltender Matt Murray to pull him out of position, Ovechkin lightly put a pass into the slot for Vrana, who tapped the puck into a wide-open net.

Game 6: Capitals 2, Penguins 1 (OT) | May 7
The Capitals had more — and better — chances, but each team managed only one second-period goal through 60 minutes of regulation play. A little more than five minutes into overtime, Ovechkin flipped the puck ahead to Evgeny Kuznetsov, who split two Pittsburgh defenders and beat Murray for the winner, setting off a celebration that was as much catharsis as joy. The Capitals advanced to the Eastern Conference finals for the first time since 1998. “Thank God it’s happened,” Ovechkin said. “Move forward.”

Conference Finals: Capitals vs. Lightning

Game 1: Capitals 4, Lightning 2 | May 11
More than nine minutes passed before Tampa Bay had a shot on goal, and the visiting Capitals had the lead by then. Just four days after one of the biggest wins in franchise history, Washington responded with one of its most impressive triumphs of the postseason.

Game 2: Capitals 6, Lightning 2 | May 13
Lars Eller redirected Jakub Vrana’s centering pass to give Washington a 3-2 lead with 1:02 left in the second period. Less than a minute later, Evgeny Kuznetsov’s shot from the half wall went off the stick of Tampa Bay defenseman Ryan McDonagh and under Andrei Vasilevskiy’s pad with less than three seconds to play, and the Capitals were on their way to a second straight road win.

Game 3: Lightning 4, Capitals 2 | May 15
Washington’s frustrations at home continued. Victor Hedman scored his first goal of the playoffs and added two assists, and Vasilevskiy stopped 36 of 38 shots for Tampa Bay.

Game 4: Lightning 4, Capitals 2 | May 17
Washington largely dominated play, launching 38 pucks toward Vasilevskiy, but the Capitals lost a second straight home game, which ended with Alex Ovechkin smashing his stick over the crossbar in exasperation.

Game 5: Lightning 3, Capitals 2 | May 19
The Capitals dug themselves into a hole with a listless first period and a third goal 33 seconds into the second. It was too much to overcome despite a frantic comeback attempt and left them on the brink of elimination.

Game 6: Capitals 3, Lightning 0 | May 21
With no margin for error, the Capitals turned in a near-flawless performance, getting two goals from T.J. Oshie and another from Devante Smith-Pelly and 24 saves from Holtby in his first shutout of the season.

Game 7: Capitals 4, Lightning 0 | May 23
Ovechkin scored the first goal, Andre Burakovsky scored two in the second period, and Holtby stopped 29 shots for his second straight shutout of the Lightning, which had led the NHL in goals during the regular season. Washington advanced to the Stanley Cup finals for the first time since 1998.

[ The series of events that led to Washington’s first Stanley Cup ]

Stanley Cup Champions: Capitals vs. Golden Knights

Game 1: Golden Knights 6, Capitals 4 | May 28
The Stanley Cup finals opened with Vegas-like flair, with the lead changing a finals-record four times. The Capitals had leads of 2-1 and 4-3, but both were short-lived. Tomas Nosek scored the winner midway through the third period and then iced the game with an empty-net goal with three seconds left.

Game 2: Capitals 3, Golden Knights 2 | May 30
The first Stanley Cup finals victory in Capitals franchise history came in unlikely and iconic fashion. The winning goal was scored by Brooks Orpik, who hadn’t scored in his previous 220 games, and the lead held up when Braden Holtby made what Jay Beagle called “maybe the save of a lifetime,” sprawling to his right to stop Alex Tuch at point-blank range with two minutes left.

Game 3: Capitals 3, Golden Knights 1 | June 2
Alex Ovechkin gave Washington fans something they’d never seen before: a home Stanley Cup finals victory. Ovechkin dove to knock in a loose puck for the first goal of the game, and Devante Smith-Pelly put it away with a third-period goal after Nosek had cut the deficit to one. Holtby stopped 21 of 22 shots.

Game 4: Capitals 6, Golden Knights 2 | June 4
Washington took control of the series with a dominant performance before a jubilant crowd. The Capitals scored three goals in the opening period, and John Carlson made it 4-0 entering the second intermission. Vegas showed signs of life, James Neal and Reilly Smith getting the Golden Knights within two goals, but Michal Kempny and Brett Connolly snuffed out any comeback hopes with goals in the final seven minutes.

Game 5: Capitals 4, Golden Knights 3 | June 7
The Capitals won the first Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in appropriate fashion: with plenty of drama. After a scoreless first period, Jakub Vrana struck first, and after former Capital Nate Schmidt tied it for Vegas with a deflected goal, Ovechkin immediately answered on a power play to make it 2-1. The Golden Knights scored twice more before the intermission to take a 3-2 lead, setting the stage for the heroics of Smith-Pelly and Lars Eller, whose goals set off celebrations in Washington.

Credits: Story by Washington Post Staff. Designed by Brianna Schroer.