Golden Knights go out valiantly in Stanley Cup loss to Capitals


Playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly, who'd scored just seven goals in the regular season, scored his seventh goal of the postseason on a lovely diving shot.

One of the game's greatest players to glide across National Hockey League ice also has his title, as Alex Ovechkin is the first Russian-born captain to win it all while also being awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs.

Less than a year ago the Golden Knights had both a general manager and a coach - but nearly no players.

"When you get this close to the Cup, it's hard", Fleury said. No one had even expected a playoff appearance.

Not only was this the first Stanley Cup in franchise history, but it was also the first championship for a major DC sports team since 1992.

Recently signed safety Kai Nacua and left tackle Ronnie Stanley were cheering for the Las Vegas Knights to get out from their 3-1 series deficit.

Washington struck first, almost seven minutes into the second period, when Czech forward Jakub Vrana scored on a breakaway with a wrist shot over Fleury's left elbow. Instead, the seemingly charmed Golden Knights struggled against the rugged Capitals.

Washington Capitals defenseman John Carlson, left, and Vegas Golden Knights right wing Alex Tuch tussle during the second period in Game 5 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, June 7, 2018, in Las Vegas.

It was a dizzying display of offence and perhaps the best period of hockey so far in this final. Eller's goal broke a 3-3 tie.

Lars Eller grabbed the rebound, pushed it into an empty net, and skated into Capitals history. With one defenceman back, the Capitals made two quick passes and Vrana up the ice alone, where he beat Marc-Andre Fleury with a quick shot over his glove hand.

After dropping game one 6-4 against the Golden Knights, the Caps rallied, turned the corner and never looked back.

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The goals kept coming - and from unlikely sources.

It's not like inserting Holtby immediately made the Capitals a juggernaut.

While Trotz acknowledged Ovechkin's play and how much he's meant to the franchise, he said Kuznetsov single-handedly took over games for the Capitals and proved to be just as valuable during their championship run.

Reilly Smith led the Golden Knights with a power play goal, his fifth of the playoffs, and an assist.

Not least because Australian Nathan Walker suits up for the Capitals - although the Sydney-raised 24-year-old did not take to the ice in the Stanley Cup, managing just one game this post-season after playing nine games in the regular season.

The Capitals went into the third trailing 3-2 and went ahead after Devante Smith-Pelly and Eller scored 2:31 apart midway through the pivotal period.

The public address announcer inside T-Mobile Arena wasn't even done announcing that goal before Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty and then scored on a one-time snapshot from the bottom of the left faceoff circle off a pinpoint feed from Nicklas Backstrom to make it 2-1 just 34 second later.

Smith-Pelly scored the equalizer in the third period, his seventh goal of the postseason matching the seven he scored in the regular season.

Less than three minutes later, a point shot from Brett Connolly found its way through Fleury's pads and Eller swept the puck in the net.

But surely it's not just the pre-game shows and dazzling lights of Sin City that has led to this phenomenal record? But the most important number was zero, as in the number of times they advanced beyond the second round.