The Washington Capitals ended a 43-year drought for their franchise by winning the team’s first ever Stanley Cup, defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 4-3 in Game 5 on Thursday night.

Stanley Cup Washington Capitals
Washington Capitals captain and Conn Smyth winner Alexander Ovechkin celebrates with the Stanley Cup after his team defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Final. (Image: AP)

The Capitals won the best-of-seven series 4-1, overcoming a loss in the first game to win four in a row and eliminate the expansion Golden Knights.

Ovechkin Finally Reaches Pinnacle

The victory was especially sweet for Washington captain Alex Ovechkin. The Russian superstar has played his entire career with the Capitals, and has been part of several teams that were among the Stanley Cup favorites. But his teams had never come close to capturing an NHL championship before this year.

“We waited so long,” Ovechkin said while celebrating the win. “We waited 13 years to get the Cup. It’s something special. It’s unbelievable.”

While the Capitals may have won the series in dominant fashion, Game 5 was anything but easy. The two teams battled in a contest that saw several lead changes, hard hitting, and lots of emotion right up to the final horn sounded.

After a scoreless first period, Washington’s Jakub Vrana opened the scoring six minutes into the second to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead. That began a frenzied second period in which five goals would be scored in total.

After Nate Schmidt tied the game up for Vegas, Ovechkin scored his 15th goal of the playoffs on the power play to give his team a 2-1 lead. But goals by David Perron and Reilly Smith put Vegas back on top, and the Knights took a 3-2 advantage into the second intermission.

For much of the third period, it looked as though Vegas would do enough to take the series back to Washington. But a goal by Devante Smith-Pelly tied the score at three around the halfway mark of the period. Less than three minutes later, Lars Eller scored what would go on to be the game winner. The Golden Knights threatened several times in the final minutes, but Braden Holtby stood firm, stopping 28 of 31 shots to earn the win.

Ovechkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. As the first Russian captain to win the Stanley Cup, Ovechkin insisted that his teammates deserved to share in the accolades.

“It’s not about me,” Ovechkin told reporters. “Just the whole team deserved it. I’m just lucky to get this reward.”

Vegas Disappointed, Sportsbooks Get Relief?

For the Golden Knights, the loss ended what was still a historically great season for a first-year expansion team. But the earlier accomplishments did little to soften the loss for a group who came so close to finishing a dream season for Las Vegas.

“It’s obviously hard to talk about right now,” Knights forward James Neal said after the loss. “It’s pretty special, but just a little bit short. But proud of the guys.”

Las Vegas sportsbooks avoided taking a huge loss on the Golden Knights, as many locals had placed bets on the team winning it all before the season started at odds as high as 500/1. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, sportsbooks in the city could have lost as much as $7 million had the Knights won the Stanley Cup.

But while the bookmakers saved a little money, they weren’t exactly rolling in the money when the Capitals took down the home team.

“We had to reduce the liability on the Knights at the expense of the other remaining teams, including the Capitals,” Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook director Jay Kornegay told the Review-Journal. “We were basically in a lose-lose situation. We lost a little less on them than we would’ve with the Knights.”