Welcome back to Last Word on Hockey’s summer series where we look at the biggest game in team history. Each day we will be back with a new team to review. Looking at things like the lead-up, what happened, followed, and why it makes it the biggest game. The biggest game does not automatically mean a win, either. Sometimes, it can be a loss that set the franchise back massively. Sit back and enjoy as we break down all 31 Team’s most important game. This is the Washington Capitals biggest game in franchise history. The full series is found here.
Washington Capitals Biggest Game in Franchise History
2018 was a historic year for the Washington Capitals as the club hoisted their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. After losing Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Capitals bounced back and won four straight eliminating the Vegas Golden Knights in five games. Many would think that Game 5 would be the club’s biggest game as the Capitals were trailing 3-2 heading into the third period before they scored two goals in less than three minutes to take the lead and eventually win the game. However, it was the path leading up to the glorious cup win that we find the Capitals biggest game.
In the Ovechkin era, the Washington Capitals had not been past the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They also had not beaten the Pittsburgh Penguins in a playoff series either. Fans everywhere had written off the Capitals as they just couldn’t seem to get over the hurdle. However, the Capitals proved the naysayers wrong and finally conquered their demons by eliminating the Penguins in six games. That is why we have chosen Game 6 of the Eastern Conference semi-finals as the Washington Capitals biggest game.
The Capitals started their journey for Lord Stanley’s Cup against the Columbus Blue Jackets. After losing two straight at home, the Capitals went back to Brayden Holtby in Game 3 as the Capitals won a thrilling double-overtime victory 3-2 on a goal from Lars Eller. The Capitals went on to win the next three games, eliminating the Blue Jackets in six games.
In the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Capitals faced off against their division rival Pittsburgh Penguins. After splitting the first two games at home, the Capitals went on to win Game 3 in Pittsburgh, however, it came at a cost. Forward Tom Wilson was suspended for Games 4, 5, and 6 after an illegal hit to the head on Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese. The Penguins went on to take Game 4, the first of Wilson’s suspension, 3-1. Ovechkin was held without a shot for only the third time in a playoff game over his career.
With the series tied at two games apiece, the Capitals headed back to Washington for Game 5 where they defeated the Penguins 6-3. Jakub Vrana scored the winner in this one. However, this was a costly win as well, as Capitals star Nicklas Backstrom missed most of the third period with a hand injury.
This leads us to what we are considering the biggest game in Capitals history.
The Game: Game 6, Eastern Conference Semi-Final
The Capitals and Penguins headed back to Pittsburgh with the Capitals leading the series three games to two. The Capitals were now without three regulars in their lineup as Backstrom and Andre Burakovsky were out with injuries and Tom Wilson was serving the last game of his suspension.
The teams traded goals in the second period as Alex Chiasson opened the scoring for Washington and Kris Letang tied the game less than 10 minutes later. The two teams exchanged chances late in the second and in the third period but both goalies came up with big saves to keep the score even through regulation.
Just 5:27 into the first overtime, Evgeny Kuznetsov was off to the races.
Kuznetsov’s series-clinching breakaway goal gave the Capitals their first Eastern Conference Final appearance in 20 years! It was also the first time they defeated the Penguins in a playoff series since 1994. They had lost seven straight series to the Penguins. Three of which were in the Ovechkin/Crosby era. Taking all this into consideration, we believe this is the biggest game in Washington Capitals history.
The Capitals went on to play the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Eastern Conference Final. Down 3-2 in the series, Braden Holtby led the team to victory posting back to back shutouts to defeat the Lightning in seven games.
The Capitals then faced off with the Vegas Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup. After losing Game 1, the Capitals won four straight games to defeat the Golden Knights in five games and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Alex Ovechkin was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy for playoff MVP and finally got to raise the Cup at 32-years-of-age.