Believe it or not, there was once a time when Washington, D.C. teams just couldn’t get past the second round and it didn’t matter the sport. The 1998 Capitals, who went all the way to the Finals, were the last Caps team to get past the semifinals. Whether it was May or October, there would always be a Washington Post article chronicling the drought and all the missed opportunities Washington teams had to just simply win one game to get to the conference finals in their respective sport.
There was also a generation gap since the 1991 Redskins Super Bowl title. Any D.C. fan born after that was used to the losing, the playoff choking, and the disappointment. Accustomed to it because we all knew that one day, things would go differently and all this suffering would be worth it. That one day came on May 7 in Pittsburgh of all places.
Date: May 7, 2018
Result: 2-1 OT CAPS
Not only was there a second round drought at play but the Capitals also had the chance to eliminate an opponent who has frustrated them over the last few decades. Only once had they beaten the Penguins in the playoffs and the previous two playoff exits came from the Pens en-route to two straight Stanley Cups. Nobody could beat the Penguins the last two years and the Caps were vying to be that team to take down the defending champs once and for all.
The Caps made us all believers when they showed tremendous heart in Game 5 to rally, win and put them on the cusp of advancing to the third round. But there was still one more win they needed and it wouldn’t be easy. Andre Burakovsky was already hurt. The Caps lost Nicklas Backstrom to a hand injury in Game 5. Plus Tom Wilson was serving the last of his three-game suspension. This resulted in a lot of rookies in the lineup, including the playoff debuts of Travis Boyd and Nathan Walker.
For Walker, he made history becoming the first Australian-born athlete to play in an NHL playoff game. The Aussie made more history in the second period by becoming the first Australian NHL player to notch a playoff point as he assisted on a goal by Alex Chiasson to put the Caps ahead 1-0. Walker showed great hustle coming around the net and feeding Chiasson a one-timer.
The Penguins would tie it later in the period with a goal from Kris Letang. As the third period went on and the seconds ticked off, overtime was inevitable. Caps playoff overtime games have that sort of reputation of being bad for your health but something just seemed different.
Usually I’m sitting there on my couch barely keeping my eyes open. This particular game, I was actually fired up that the game was going to overtime. I was smiling. I was yelling out words of encouragement to the boys every time they had the puck and holding my breath and exhaling on every missed Penguins shot.
Then a poetic moment happened. Sidney Crosby turned over the puck. Alex Ovechkin got it and found Evgeny Kuznetsov all alone down the middle….
“Just f—— please score.”
A Washington D.C. team made it to the third round for the first time in 20 years. Out of the four major teams, nobody deserved to be the first team to do it than the Capitals. They were the ones who had been going to the playoffs consistently and suffered the most heartbreak. But on this night, they prevailed. They slayed the biggest dragon and would later go on to do bigger and better things.
We all know what moment #1 is but let’s relive it again tomorrow!
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5. “The Save”