Times change and, with them, teams. Long bitter narratives, sad stories with roots that go back before the memory of most fans, can actually be rewritten. Scripts do get flipped.

Sometimes, words that are seldom seen together in sentence form — like “Wizards sweep playoff series” or “Capitals win Game 7 to advance” — can actually be written.

In fact, words that have never been written before can now be typed: Both the Capitals and Wizards are in the second round of the playoffs at the same time. Maybe buy an extra big screen, just in case.

In the span of 25 hours, the sagas of the two teams that call Verizon Center home took a welcome, if unexpected, shift in plot. First, the Wizards swept a best-of-seven playoff series for the first time in their history on Sunday night, stomping the same Toronto Raptors that had beaten them soundly all three times in the regular season. Their style, especially the marvelous sometimes-glowering, sometimes-grinning charisma of Paul (The Truth) Pierce, changed the whole feel of a Wizards win.

Then, on Monday night, before a thundering red-clad crowd that included Pierce, John Wall, Marcin Gortat and other Wizards in Capitals gear leading cheers in the first row at rink side, Washington defied its long history of Game 7 sadness and beat the New York Islanders, 2-1. The Caps now advance to play New York again — this time the Rangers.

A town that’s waited 23 years for some team, any team, to mesh its talent with athletic arrogance and actually enjoy the drama of the playoffs, not go into the fetal position when the tension builds, might soon have a pair of them.

“It’s going to be contagious, I’m telling you,” Capitals Coach Barry Trotz said. “It’ll affect all the sports.”

One play changed this night entirely, one brave, slashing dash by Evgeny Kuznetsov with 7 minutes 18 seconds left in a 1-1 game. Mark the spot.

Kuznetsov, only 22 and unscarred by direct personal memory of any Capitals playoff failure, began his move, his charge, his assault on a fresh Washington hockey story, near his own right wall 20 feet out from the Islanders’ goal.

The southpaw cut directly across the ice, right to left, through traffic and in front of goalie Jaroslav Halak. Normally, one skating stride or two might seem normal. Kuznetsov, a huge young talent who has begun to blossom in this series, took five strides, each dig surprising the New York defense more at his audacity and patience. Wait, wait.

Finally, Halak committed to a dive to his right. And Kuznetsov flicked the puck past him as defenseman Johnny Boychuck dove, too late, across the goal.

“Oh, it’s unbelievable. I’m so excited,” said Kuznetsov, who was born in the same year, 1993, that the Islanders last won a playoff series. “I thought, ‘Wait, wait, one more step. See what [develops].’ . . . I see room between goalie and post, then I see Boychuck [diving]. So, go high.”

All of that decision-making may have taken half a second.

These victories on consecutive days are, indeed, first steps. The Wizards haven’t been past the second round of the playoffs since 1979, and the Capitals are still the franchise that has blown nine two-game leads.

But this felt like a start. Of the Capitals’ record in Game 7s — now 4-9 — Washington’s Joel Ward said, “We wanted to prove that to ourselves and to our fans. . . . To see the basketball players at the game . . . was actually inspirational. We wanted to do that, too. When you have a team on the brink, you want to take them out.”

Wait, a killer instinct in Washington in the springtime!? No wonder the weather has been so unseasonably cold all spring, almost like New England, almost like a part of the country where teams expect to advance through the NHL and NBA playoffs, not make a quick shy entrance and departure, leaving no ripple.

“Everybody was ‘in.’ A great feeling. I think we deserved to win,” said Alex Ovechkin, who had an assist, but ended with two goals in the series, actually one fewer than his countryman Kuznetsov.

For almost two full periods, the Capitals struggled with both the Islanders and their own history of offensive ineptitude in winner-take-all games when tension tightens the grip on sticks and the ability to flick or slap a puck into a six-inch-square window suddenly becomes almost impossible.

Finally, the Caps broke through — from two-foot range — with the kind of hardworking “ugly” grunt-and-grind goal in the crease for which Capitals coaches have begged many years in vain. When Halak couldn’t control a rebound off a Brooks Orpik slap shot, Ward stuffed the rebound between his legs from point-blank range.

“I gave it a good hard whack. It felt like it took an hour to go in,” said Ward of the puck that dribbled across the line for a 1-0 second-period lead.

Almost as much as Kuznetsov’s sick goal, that changed the story.

Humans are a species that can’t resist narrative. We’re fascinated by the “story” of anything. And, given a decent amount of data, we’ll darn well impose that narrative on the facts, if it actually exists or not. Once in place, that narrative builds on itself, attracting all reinforcing evidence like barnacles. Anything that contradicts the larger, longer story barely seems to have happened. Stigma like “choking Caps” can start to look as permanent as a birth mark.

Few things are harder to accomplish than changing a long entrenched narrative, especially if it is one of failure, whether in an individual or, in sports, in a team. We’re not good with: “It just worked out that way. No real reason. Could’ve gone the other way, too.”

Someday, the contagion of victory, so long delayed, will start again. Whenever it actually arrives, it will look a great deal like these 25 hours.

For more by Thomas Boswell, visit washingtonpost.com/boswell.