The Capitals' first championship is the city's first in one of the country's big four professional sports leagues since the NFL's Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1992. They entered the series with Washington having lost only three games all postseason, backed by players mostly in their mid-20s, save for Marc-Andre Fleury, the former Penguins Stanley-Cup winning goaltender.
Forty-four years and 3,701 games worth of heartbreak crumpled under the weight of 34.5 pounds of silver as Ovechkin lifted Lord Stanley's chalice.
"I think the history of the organization is definitely an important thing, but we're focused on this group", Washington's Tom Wilson said.
Ovechkin won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP after scoring his franchise-record 15th goal of the postseason. Ovechkin shouted "Yeah! Yeah!"
When Ovi got the Cup back, he handed it to Ted Leonsis, the Caps' owner since 1999. Smith-Pelly signed with the Capitals as a free agent last summer after the New Jersey Devils bought out the final season of his two-year, US$2.6-million contract. No one expected Vegas to get this far. The clock finally hit zeros, allowing the Caps to storm the ice behind their net for a frenzied celebration. Top-line center William Karlsson, who did not practice on Wednesday, has been struggling, with only five recorded shots in four games during the Stanley Cup final and only three points in Vegas' last seven games, well below his averages for the full season.
"You should be a role model", Cherry said at the time. "Doesn't happen too often".
Smith-Pelly scored the equalizer in the third period, his seventh goal of the postseason matching the seven he scored in the regular season.
"It means everything, you couldn't write the story better. If you're going to win on the road, I couldn't imagine a better place to do it".
"Ovie had a different step tonight", said Caps winger T.J. Oshie.
"Me and him have been together and always fighting through a lot of negative things, lots of problems", Ovechkin said. "That's something from Day One that we've had ever since training camp, ever since the expansion draft". The championship is the first by a Washington professional sports team in the NFL, NBA, NHL or Major League Baseball since the Redskins won the Super Bowl on January 26, 1992, and came 40 years to the day the Bullets won basketball's title. Ovechkin scored 49 goals.
Once the sting of their loss to Washington subsides, the Golden Knights will certainly hold their collective heads high when they look back on what was a remarkable season that has all the makings of a Hollywood movie.
"It's going to be a tough couple days", Vegas defenseman Deryk Engelland said. You see him in the playoffs this year, he's our best player - blocking shots, playing good in the D-zone, playing good in the neutral zone. They got clutch goaltending from Brayden Holtby, including his miracluous paddle save off Alex Tuch in Game 2 that seems to be the turning point of the series when viewed in the rear-view mirror.