At the 2008 trade deadline, then-Caps general manager George McPhee, acquired three-time Stanley Cup winner Sergei Fedorov for defense prospect Theo Ruth. Fedorov was brought in to give the Caps another offensive weapon, as well as to mentor fellow Russians Alex Semin and Alex Ovechkin. Fedorov joined a young Capitals team that had high Stanley Cup aspirations with a core consisting of Ovechkin, Semin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green. Fedorov’s experience was valuable to the team and made it an easy decision to designate him as an alternate captain. Unfortunately, Washington fell to Philadelphia in the first-round.
The next year turned out to be Fedorov’s last in the NHL. Entering the 2008-09 campaign at 39-years old, it was all or nothing for Fedorov and the Caps. In 52 games played, Fedorov put up 33 points; a reasonable total for his age. While his contributions in the regular season were much-needed, it was in the playoffs where Fedorov truly shined. The Caps’ first opponent in the 2009 Stanley Cup playoffs was the New York Rangers. After falling behind 3-1 in the series, the second-seeded Capitals won Games 5 & 6 to force the seventh-seeded Rangers to a decisive seventh game at Verizon Center. It was in this game that Fedorov scored one of the biggest goals in franchise history. With the game tied 1-1, the Caps and Blueshirts seemed to be headed for overtime. With 4:59 left in the third period, Fedorov took the puck into the Rangers’ zone. He slammed on the brakes at the top corner of the left faceoff circle and fired a wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist that turned out to be the game-winner. The Verizon Center crowd roared with joy; some say the arena has never been louder. Unfortunately for both Fedorov and the Caps, the team fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games in the succeeding round. After the season, Fedorov departed for his native Russia; where he played three more seasons before hanging up his skates for good.
Fedorov played only one and a half seasons with Washington, but the 2015 Hall of Fame inductee left a lasting impact. Ovechkin even said as much: “He’s our leader… He’s our best guy in the locker room. He showed it. He’s our best guy. He has more experience than anybody in this locker room. He knows how to play like that. He just shows his leadership.” The Washington career of Fedorov was short but it was also an important time as well. Both Ovechkin and Semin were still young, developing players and having an experienced winner such as Fedorov was good not only for them, but the entire team. His memorable goal will not be forgotten by Caps fans anytime soon.
by Michael Fleetwood