Even after a disappointing loss today, 2018 was a year that every fan of the Washington Capitals will remember forever. Before turning the page to 2019, NoVa Caps takes a look at the best from the best year of our lives.
Starting from near his own net, Burakovsky burned Buffalo Sabres forward Jason Pominville in his own zone and then around him before dangling past Rasmus Ristolainen, the Sabres’ best defenseman, while being surrounded by four Buffalo players. He finished off the play by tucking it through the legs of goaltender Robin Lehner.
Skating up high in the offensive zone, Backstrom twirled around and fed Oshie with a marvelous tape-to-tape spin-o-rama pass. Oshie roofed it over the shoulder of goaltender Cam Talbot for a 3-1 lead over the Edmonton Oilers.
After Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Shea Theodore dumped the puck in from the center line with a little more than two minutes left in regulation while trailing 3-2, the puck took a crazy bounce off of the boards and went right to Golden Knights forward Cody Eakin, who was at the right circle. Eakin fed Tuch, who one-timed the puck with an open net but Holtby stretched out his arm to put his stick in front of it and got it with the paddle. “The Save” helped the Capitals win their first game in the Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.
While Toronto Maple Leafs center Kadri was skating around his own net, Wilson dumped him to the ground right in front of goaltender Fredrick Andersen.
Best Fight: Wilson vs. Penguins’ Jamie Oleksiak (12/19)
After Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan told reporters that Oleksiak, a 6’7″ defenseman, could take care of Wilson easily, Wilson put Oleksiak to the ground after three consecutive punches in a fight that lasted only around five seconds. Wilson gave Oleksiak a few marks on his face and the defenseman not only missed the rest of the game but every game since that fight, which occurred only 55 seconds into the game. Oleksiak finished the game with only nine seconds worth of ice time.
Seven months earlier, Oleksiak tried to fight Wilson after he delivered a hit to the head of Penguins forward Zach Aston-Reese of Game 3 of the second-round series between the two teams but Wilson declined. Penguins’ GM Jim Rutherford ripped Wilson after he declined to fight Oleksiak, saying “when [Oleksiak] challenged Wilson, he couldn’t run quick enough to get away from him.”
Best Moment: Capitals Clinch Stanley Cup (6/7)
This is the best moment… hands down. After getting criticized for so long for not getting past the second round, Ovechkin receives the Stanley Cup for the first time from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman after the team defeats the Golden Knights in five games in the Stanley Cup Final. After taking the first lap as captain, he hands it off to Backstrom after the two have been waiting for that moment for the past decade. The two decide to take a lap together before the rest of the team takes a turn individually skating around the ice with Lord Stanley over their head.
Best Game: Game 5 at Golden Knights (6/7)
After a scoreless first frame, Jakub Vrana beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury near the top right corner for a 1-0 lead after getting sprung on a semi-breakaway by Wilson. Former Capital defenseman Nate Schmidt tied the game at one with a wrist shot from up high that went off the skate of Capitals defenseman Matt Niskanen and through the five-hole of Holtby. The next shift, Ovechkin drew a tripping penalty on defenseman Brayden McNabb on a breakaway. Ovechkin scored 22 seconds into the power play from the low left circle after receiving a cross-ice feed from Backstrom. Forward David Perron tied the game up a few minutes after Ovechkin made it 2-1. Forward Tomas Tatar deflected a Colin Miller shot from behind and the puck went off Perron’s skate after he was fighting with Capitals defenseman Christian Djoos in the crease. Forward Reilly Smith took the lead for the Golden Knights after a great pass from Tuch on a power play and he buried it into a wide open net to give Vegas a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
The Capitals still trailed 3-2 despite pressuring Fleury to begin the final frame but forward Devante Smith-Pelly was finally able to tie the game at three with a little more than 10 minutes to go. Smith-Pelly caught a Brooks Orpik shot from the point with his skate and swept it past Fleury while falling. Three minutes later, forward Brett Connolly received a pass from Burakovsky, who stripped the puck from Luca Sbisa behind the net to feed him, and shot one that beat Fleury but was not strong enough to find the net. Luckily, center Lars Eller pounced on the loose puck and put it into a yawning cage for the game-winning goal to win the Stanley Cup for the Capitals.
The Capitals’ 4-3 victory in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final over the Golden Knights clinched the franchise’s first ever Stanley Cup and Washington’s first championship since the NFL’s Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1992.
Have any problems with our favorites from 2018, Capitals fans? Please tell us your best of 2018 in the comments. Hopefully, the best has yet to come!
By Harrison Brown