CAPITAL ONE ARENA – Me and my friend Allie have had some memorable birthdays from high school through our Radford days but not even our 21st could top what happened on Wednesday night at Capital One Arena. The Capitals came through and defeated the Penguins 2-1 thanks to T.J. Oshie‘s heroics but it was also a total team win with Alex Ovechkin getting a power play strike and Braden Holtby practically standing on his head. The whole day was incredible.
A rule of thumb for us sports journalists or bloggers when we get assigned to do games, there’s no cheering in the press box. Wednesday night, I was nowhere near one. Well technically our seats were in section 421 a couple sections over but you get my point. I was with my best friend and our best friends whom we’ve known since middle school. People who both cared about and put up with us for over 10 years.
When the schedule came out, I circled this game on my calendar. There was no way I was going to miss a Caps vs. Penguins rivalry game, with two of the best hockey players in the world going head-to-head, on my birthday night but I didn’t know who would be with me. Allie texted me before the season trying to figure out a day to go to a game and I immediately said we should go this game for our birthday!
Fast forward to my birthday morning. First I made the trek to morning skate to see how the Caps would line up for this epic tilt. I got a birthday wish from the great broadcaster Joe Beninati who told me that they’ll win it for me. I’ll say one thing from my 15 years growing up watching Joe B taking us to the games themselves from our living room, he is never wrong!
I met Allie and her friend Kelly over at Rosslyn as she got off of work. She then told me there was a surprise waiting for me. At this point, I was happy enough to be going to the game with her but I still took a few wild guesses. We got off the station, walked less than a block from the arena to pregame at the Iron Horse. I’ve never been to this bar before but it looked like a cool spot. There was two floors and a lot of cool things to look at or if you have the inner kid in you, there was even pinball and ski ball!
Allie took me downstairs and to my surprise there were our friends Kayla, Brett, and Margy! Three good friends of mine that we’ve known forever. I couldn’t believe it!
As birthdays pass, things evolve when it comes to gifts. When we were kids it was all about that cool new toy that hit the shelf. As we reached the teenage years it was all about getting a new phone or the latest NHL video game. Seeing our friends with us was better than any material possession I could’ve got.
Even the FiCP Twitter King, Chris, came over to buy me a drink and a shot. There were a lot of cool beers inside but there was one in particular that I had before we headed inside the arena that I had that I think brought the Caps luck. The drink title? Caps in Five.
We got there and one of the first things we saw was T.J. Oshie go down after a no high-sticking from Olli Maatta. Later in the period, Sidney Crosby scored on the power play. Despite the early hole, I didn’t care! I was at this game with some of my closest friends and honestly what more could I have wanted besides a win?
In the middle period Alex Ovechkin scored from his spot at the office so it was deadlocked at one heading into the final period. In those final 20 minutes my excitement turned to nerves. I didn’t know what to expect but I didn’t take my eyes off the ice.
Oshie went down again and then more nerves ensued. This time Evgeni Malkin was the culprit and his penalty was worse than two minutes in the sin bin. He got ejected.
To our amazement, Oshie would re-enter the game. As I was concentrating on the game my phone was blowing up with texts and a bunch of missed calls from friends and relatives. Despite that, my eyes were glued to the game. I was waiting for something, anything to happen.
Fury was unleashed midway through the third to get the building fired up and behind the Caps on their quest to get two important points in the Metropolitan Division race. As soon as we finished screaming my phone died! Perfect. Now I can watch the final minutes in peace.
Then Oshie came through with 1:14 to go. This dude is amazing. Two hits, a few stitches and a concussion protocol couldn’t stop Captain America. Off a quick pass from John Carlson, Oshie buried it in and we went nuts.
— Washington Capitals (@Capitals) November 8, 2018
I don’t even remember what happened in the final minute. It was all a blur as we were still amazed at the Oshbabe coming up clutch. Final horn. Game over. Caps defeat the Penguins 2-1.
I think I high-fived too many Caps fans while exiting the building. I then lost my friends. I’m thinking, wow my luck. I just watched my favorite team defeat the team I hate the most on my birthday and I lose the group with no phone power. Thankfully enough there are some kind people in the world. The ladies on the front desk of Vida Fitness, just outside the arena, had an iPhone charger! I called Allie immediately and the night was saved!
I reunited with them at an Irish bar down the street and we celebrated the win. The Caps celebrated hard after they won the Stanley Cup. We might’ve came close to celebrating that hard postgame. Sadly there were no Cups to do keg stands out of or fountains to do push-ups or snow angels though.
I’ve seen many games inside and outside that building. I was there when Ovechkin scored his 500th goal. I asked out my first girlfriend after a playoff game. I’ve been to big games where I’ve seen the exhilaration of joy when the Caps win and the bitter defeat when they lose. And yes, I’ve had my heart broken inside this place, on some occasions by the opponent the Caps played Wednesday night.
This night, on November 7 was the second best night of my life. The first one, of course came on my half birthday on June 7th when the Caps did the thing.
Thank you to our friends who celebrated with us and a big thank you to the Washington Capitals for making this birthday one we’ll never forget!
Best. Birthday. Ever.