1974/75: Owner Abe Pollin who owned the NBA’s Baltimore Bullets had desired an NHL franchise for the Beltway. After being granted an expansion franchise he chose to build a new arena in the DC suburb of Landover, Maryland which would play host to both the recently renamed Washington Bullets as well as his expansion NHL team that was set to begin play in 1974. The arena known as the Capital Centre was one of the first to feature luxury boxes and boasted that no seat was further than 200 feet from the ice. However, when the team named the Capitals finally took the ice on October 9th Pollin probably wished no one could watch his team. With the WHA competing with the NHL for talent, the expansion Capitals took the ice with a team that probably could not compete in any league as they posted the worst season in NHL history. The Capitals compiled a record of 8-67-5 and set dubious records for a season, among them being: fewest wins (8), most losses (67), most road losses (39 out of 40) most consecutive road losses (37), most consecutive losses (17), and most goals against (446), and finished 20 points worse than their expansion brethren, the Kansas City Scouts, who managed 41 points.
1975/76: In their second season the Capitals were not much better finishing dead last again with a hideous record of 11-59-10, as they allowed a NHL worst 394 goals.
1976/77: After two historically awful seasons the Capitals find themselves in the thick of the race for the NHL’s final playoff spot all season falling one point short with a 24-42-14 record, which was still less then stellar but it was more points at 62 then the first two seasons combined.
1977/78: After challenging for a playoff spot the Capitals take a step backwards, and are a non-factor in the race for the playoffs, finishing last in the Norris Division with a terrible record of 17-49-14.
1978/79: The Capitals would once again challenge for the playoffs losing out on the final spot by a tiebreaker to the Vancouver Canucks while posting a record of 24-41-15.
1979/80: With four WHA teams joining the NHL the Capitals are moved into the Patrick Division, where they would quickly settle to the bottom of posting an awful record of 27-40-13. Despite the poor record and last place finish the Caps came up just two points short of the final playoff spot in an era in which the top 16 teams made the playoffs no matter which conference or division they were in.
1980/81: In their seventh season the Capitals continued to struggle finishing in last place again with a record of 26-36-18 that kept them one point away from their first playoff berth in franchise history.
1981/82: The Cap Centre plays host to the All-Star Game as the Capitals continue to sit in last place posting a record of 26-41-13. Under a new playoff format the top four teams in each division made the playoffs, had it been like the previous year where the top 16 teams made it no matter what conference they were in the Capitals would have made it into the postseason.
1982/83: Prior to the start of the season the Capitals make the biggest trade in franchise history sending Gary Green and Ryan Walter to the Montreal Canadiens for Doug Jarvis, Craig Laughlin, Brian Engblom, and Rod Langway. The key player in the deal was Langway as he captured the Norris trophy while helping the Capitals end 8 years of frustration by making the playoffs for the first time ever with a solid 39-25-16 record. However, in the playoffs the inexperienced Capitals would find themselves matched up against the New York Islanders who were set to embark on their fourth straight Stanley Cup Championship beating the Caps in four games.
1983/84: The Capitals would take another step forward as Rod Langway won his second straight Norris Trophy as the Caps surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time in franchise history while finishing in second place with a record of 48-27-5. In the playoffs the Capitals would earn their first series victory sweeping the Philadelphia Flyers in three straight games. However, in the Patrick Division Finals the Caps would be knocked off by the New York Islanders in five games, losing four straight games, after stealing Game 1 in New York.
1984/85: The Capitals repeat their 100-point effort finishing in second place again with a solid record of 46-25-9. In the playoffs the Capitals would be done in by the New York Islanders again losing a hard fought fifth game at the Cap Centre 2-1.
1985/86: The Capitals reach 50 wins for the first time in franchise history finishing in second place with a solid record of 50-23-7. In the playoffs the Capitals would face the New York Islanders for the fourth straight season. However, this time it would be the Capitals who would emerge victorious sweeping the Isles in convincing fashion winning all three games by a combined score of 11-4. However, in the Patrick Division Final the Caps would be stunned by New York’s other team the Rangers in six games.
1986/87: The Capitals would continue to be a solid playoff contender in the Patrick Division finishing in second place again with a 38-32-10 record. In the playoffs the Capitals would face the New York Islanders again jumping out to a 3-1 series lead. However, the Islanders would bounce back to win the next two games to force a seventh game at the Cap Centre. The game would go to overtime tied 2-2 and would become an instant classic the game would go deep into the early morning hours of Easter as the Capitals who were not shut out all season were shut out in three overtime periods. The game would finally end eight minutes into a fourth overtime when the Islanders eliminated the Caps for the fourth time in five years.
1987/88: In a highly competitive Patrick Division where all six teams finished with winning records, with just seven points separating first place from last place the Capitals finish in second place with a record of 38-33-9. In the playoffs the Capitals would get off to a slow start falling behind the Philadelphia Flyers three games to one. However, the Capitals would not give up winning the next two games to force a seventh game at the Cap Centre. In Game 7 it looked as if the Capitals would exit with another first round loss as they fell behind quickly 3-0. However, the Caps would rally briefly taking a 4-3 lead in the 3rd period before the Flyers tied and sent the game into overtime, where Dale Hunter’s whose assist ignited the rally sent Caps fans home happy with a dramatic overtime goal. In the Patrick Division Finals the Capitals would face the New Jersey Devils, in a high scoring series in which each team took turns with blow out wins. Facing elimination on the road the Capitals took Game 6 with seven goals and appeared to have all the momentum heading home for Game 7. However, the Capitals season would end with a 3-2 loss at the Cap Centre in Game 7.
1988/89: The Capitals would finally break through in the regular season winning their first ever division title with a record of 41-29-10. However, in the playoffs the Capitals would erase all good feelings of finishing in first place as they are stunned by the Philadelphia Flyers in six games dropping the final three games of the series.
1989/90: The Capitals would get off to a slow start as Coach Bryan Murray was replaced by his brother Terry behind the bench. Under Terry Murray the Capitals would still suffer their first losing season in eight years with a 36-38-6 record. However, they would make it into the playoffs by finishing in third place. After years of failure in the playoffs the Capitals finally put together a solid run stunning the New Jersey Devils in six games before beating the New York Rangers in the Patrick Division Finals in five games. Leading the charge for the Caps was John Druce an obscure minor league call up who scored 12 goals in the first two rounds including the overtime winner in Game 5 which sent the Capitals on to the Wales Conference Finals. However, in the conference finals the Capitals would run out of gas as they were swept by the Boston Bruins in four straight games, as John Druce was held to two goals in four games after scoring 12 in his previous 11 playoff games.
1990/91: The Capitals skate into the playoffs again despite a mediocre 37-36-7 record. In the playoffs the Capitals would once again spoil the New York Rangers season beating them in six games taking the final three games after a 6-0 loss at home in Game 3. In the Patrick Division Finals the Capitals would take Game 1 from the Pittsburgh Penguins on the road 4-2. In Game 22 the Caps and Pens would go into overtime tied 6-6 in a classic shootout. However, the Pens would win and would go on to take the series in five games.
1991/92: After missing the playoffs in each of their first eight seasons the Capitals make the playoffs for the tenth straight season finishing in second place with a respectable 45-27-8 record. In the playoffs the Capitals would get off to a flying start jumping out to a 3-1 series lead over the defending Champion Pittsburgh Penguins. However, after the Caps seemed to have control of the series with a dominant 7-2 road victory in Game 4, the Pens rallied to force a seventh game. The Penguins would complete the comeback with a 3-1 win at the Cap Centre in Game 7, they would go on to win the Stanley Cup again.
1992/93: The Capitals were once again a strong contender finishing in second place with a solid record of 43-34-7. However, in the playoffs the Capitals would unravel losing three straight games n overtime after taking Game 1 against the New York Islanders. After keeping their hopes alive with a win at the Cap Centre in Game 5 the Capitals season ended in disgrace with a 5-3 loss in Game 6 on the road. However, the loss would be more remembered for Dale Hunter’s blind-sided cheap shot on Islanders star Pierre Turgeon, after he scored to put the Isles ahead 5-1. Hunter would be suspended a record 20 games for his indefensible actions.
1993/94: With Dale Hunter sitting out the first quarter of the season the Capitals get off to a slow start as Coach Terry Murray is replaced in the middle of the season by Jim Schoenfeld. Under Schonefeld the Caps would get into the playoffs as the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference with a 39-35-10 record finishing the season on a strong note. In the playoffs the Capitals would stun the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games winning all three games at home, which had been renamed US Air Arena. However, in the second round the Capitals would run into a locomotive as the Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 series lead on the way to taking the series in five games.
1994/95: In a season shortened to 48 games by a four month lockout the Capitals again make the playoffs by finishing in third place with a 22-18-8 record. In the playoffs the Capitals would jump out to a fast start taking a 3-1 series lead against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, with a chance to close the series out in Game 5 the Caps lost in overtime 6-5. In Game 6 at home the Capitals were never in the game being blown out 7-1 as the series went to a seventh game where the Capitals barely gave any effort at all becoming the first team ever to blow a 3-1 series lead three times losing 3-0.
1995/96: The Capitals entered the season in new duds featuring a swooping Eagle as their logo, on blue uniforms. With the new look the Capitals would again make it into the playoffs finishing in third place with a 39-32-11 record as goalie Jim Carey captured the Vezina Trophy in his first full NHL season. However, in the playoffs the Capitals would have their season end in disappointment again as they are beaten by the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games losing four straight games, after taking the first two games in Pittsburgh. Which included another heartbreaking overtime loss in Game 4 at home which would end in a fourth overtime as the third longest game ever.
1996/97: Coming off his Vezina Trophy goalie Jim Carey would struggle all season before being traded to the Boston Bruins with Anson Carter and Jason Allison for Adam Oates, Rick Tocchet and goalie Bill Ranford. The move would not help the Capitals get back into the playoffs as their string of 14 straight playoff appearances came to an end with a record of 33-40-9.
1997/98: A new era began for the Capitals as they starter the season with a new coach Ron Wilson and began play at a brand new arena in downtown Washington known as the MCI Center in December. In their new surrounding the Capitals would rebound off their lost season finishing in third place with a record of 40-30-12, Olaf Kolzig established himself as a star goalie with a 2.20 GAA. In the playoff the Capitals would get off to a solid start as they dispatched the Boston Bruins in six games. In a battle of capital cities in the second round the Capitals would reach their second conference finals by taking out the Ottawa Senators in five games. In the Eastern Conference Finals the Capitals would drop Game 1 to the Buffalo Sabres at home 2-0. However, they would recover to win the next three games taking Game 2 and Game 3 in overtime to grab a 3-1 series lead. After losing Game 5 at home, playoff collapses of the past had to be in the minds of the Capitals as Game 6 in Buffalo went into overtime. However, in overtime Joe Juneau would beat Dominik Hasek on a rebound to send the Capitals on to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. However, in finals the Caps would be overmatched by the Detroit Red Wings who easily swept them in four straight games.
1998/99: Coming off their trip to the Stanley Cup Finals the Capitals are moved into the newly formed Southeast Division as the NHL realigned to three divisions in each conference. On the ice it appeared as if the Capitals were suffering from a hangover as they struggled all season missing the playoffs by finishing in third place with a disappointing record of 31-45-6.
1999/00: After a disappointing season in which the Capitals missed the playoffs the Capitals rebounded winning the Southeast Division with a solid record of 44-26-12-2 as Goalie Olaf Kolizig captures the Vezina Trophy. However, in the playoffs the Capitals would be haunted by old ghosts from the past as they are stunned by the Pittsburgh Penguins in five games.
2000/01: The Capitals remained at the top of the Southeast Division capturing their second straight division title with a record of 41-27-10-4. However in the playoffs the Capitals would be done in again by the Pittsburgh Penguins falling in six games. Following the season the Capitals and Penguins would get together in one of the biggest blockbuster trades in Caps history as they acquired Jaromir Jagr without giving up much talent.
2001/02: Washington was all-abuzz with the acquisition of Jaromir Jagr who was perennially at the top of the NHL in scoring. However, Jagr would struggle at first to get acclimated to the Capitals system as the Capitals struggled all through out the first half of the season. Jagr and the Caps would play better down the stretch but they would not be able to get into the playoffs finishing with a record of 36-33-11-2 which had two points of the final playoff spot. Following the season the Caps would fire Coach Ron Wilson and replace him with Bruce Cassidy as they tried to put together a team and system that could utilize Jagr’s skills better.
2002/03: Coming off a bitterly disappointing season the Capitals returned to the playoffs finishing in second Place with a solid record of 39-29-8-6, falling one point short of beating out the Tampa Bay Lightning for first place in the Southeast Division, despite Jarmoir Jagr falling to post 80 points. In the playoffs the Caps would be matched up against the Lightning and seemed on the road to get revenge for the regular season after taking the first two games in Tampa by a combined score of 9-3. However, the Lightning would steal Game 3 at the MCI Center in overtime and would go on to win the next four games to stun the Capitals in six games.
2003/04: After a solid 6-1 win on opening day the Capitals went into an early tail spin as they won just four of their next 15 games. Along the way with a lockout looming and the Capitals well over budget and in last place again a decision was made to scrap the team and start from scratch. Over the next few months the Caps would deal away Captain Steve Konawalchuk, Peter Bondra, Sergei Gonchar, and Jaromir Jagr who came to Washington amidst heavy anticipation was leaving as a major disappointment. Considerably younger at the end of the season the Caps often took their lumps finishing in last place with a terrible 23-46-10-3 record.
2004/05: Season Cancelled Due to Lock Out
2005/06: With the lock out Capitals fans would have to wait a year to see 2004 first overall draft pick Alexander Ovechkin, but with the new rules limiting clutching and grabbing, and shoot outs at the end five minute overtimes, the Russian Winger had a chance to shine ever brighter. Ovechkin stole the show everywhere the Capitals went with dazzling moves and blazing speed, he established himself at the age of 20 as the most exciting young star in the NHL. No goal highlighted Alexander Ovechkin’s outstanding rookie season then a goal he made falling down to the ice in a 6-1 win in Phoenix, which left Coyotes Coach Wayne Gretzky awestruck. Ovechkin would go on to lead all rookies in scoring with 52 goals and 54 assists as he claimed the Calder Trophy. Unfortunately the rest of the Capitals were not nearly as exciting as the team was never in the playoff race while finishing in last place in the Southeast Division with a dreadful record of 29-41-12.
2006/07: The young Capitals entered the season hoping to take a significant step forward; as Alexander Ovechkin gave them the type of star franchise player they could build around. In his second year, Ovechkin continued to thrill Capital fans with another solid 46 goal 46 assist season to lead the team in all scoring categories. Another young Russian Alexander Semin also impressed with a breakout season scoring 38 goals. However, the Capitals continued their status as also-rans finishing in last place yet again with a record of 28-40-14.
2007/08: With the NHL making a league wide change in the way jerseys are made with the new “swift jerseys’ the Capitals took an opportunity to go back to the past with a modernized version of their original star spangled red white and blue jerseys, with the famous Capitals script that was worn form the franchises first 20 years. The Capitals decked in red, white and blue splendor got off to a fast start, winning their first three games, but it would not last as the Capitals won just 6 of the first 21 games, when Coach Glenn Hanlon was fired on Thanksgiving Day. In their first game with Bruce Boudreau the Capitals would end a five game losing streak with a dramatic 4-3 overtime victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, as rookie Nicklas Backstrom scored the game winner. As they adjusted to their new coach the Capitals struggles continued as they lost three in a row to end November with a record of 8-16-2. In December the Caps would begin to show signs of life as Alex Ovechkin became a goal scoring machine leading the Capitals to a solid 7-3-3 record. As 2008 began the Capitals continued to get hot, winning 9-of-their-first-11 games in the New Year. However, the Capitals would take a step backward in February as they went to a stretch where they won just one game during a six game stretch. Hoping to muscle up to make a run at a playoff spot the Capitals were one of the busiest teams at the trade deadline; landing Matt Cooke, Sergei Fedorov and Cristobal Huet in three separate deals. However, the key to the Capitals making the playoffs would be Ovechkin, who turned white hot in March, as the Capitals went on an amazing season ending run, where they won 15 of their last 19 games, as Ovechkin, led the league with 65 goals, while becoming the first Capital to win the Hart Trophy as league MVP. The strong finish would be enough as the Capitals edged the Carolina Hurricanes for the Southeast Division Title, and final playoff spot. Also earning accolades was Coach Bruce Boudreau, who had a small part in the cult classic movie “Slap Shot,” playing a member of one of the opposing teams. In a turn around that would make Reggie Dunlop proud, Boudreau captured the Adams Award for Coach of the Year, for leading the Capitals to their first playoff appearance in seven years. Facing the Philadelphia Flyers the Capitals had another great comeback in Game 1, scoring three unanswered goals in the third period to overcome a 4-2 deficit to win the opener 5-4. However, the Caps would not be so fortunate over the next three games, losing each, as they found themselves in a 3-1 deficit. However, the comeback Caps would not go down without a fight, as they won the next two games to force a decisive seventh game. Game 7 would be a tight one, as the two teams traded goals in the first two periods and went to overtime tied 2-2. However, a costly tripping penalty on Tom Poti would spell doom for the Capitals, as the Flyers won the series on a goal by Joffrey Lupul.
2008/09: After Alexander Ovechkin claimed his first Hart Trophy, and got his first taste of the postseason, the Capitals looked to take a step forward as they signed Goalie Jose Theodore. After playing solid hockey the first two months, the Capitals made a big move to the front of the Eastern Conference with an outstanding December as they won 14 games in a 16 game stretch, with Ovechkin once again dazzling fans on a nightly basis as he scored 56 goals with 54 assists and claimed the Hart Trophy for NHL MVP for the second year in a row. Also leading the way was Defenseman Mike Green who scored 31 goals with 42 assists; as he became a finalist for the Norris Trophy. The Capitals would go on to win the Southeast Division for a second straight season as they posted the best record in franchise history at 50-24-8. In the playoffs the Capitals were matched up against the New York Rangers, but early troubles arose as Jose Theodore struggled in Game 1, allowing four goals as the Capitals lost 4-3. With Simeon Varlamov in the nets for Game 2, the Capitals experienced more frustration at the Verizon Center, losing 1-0, as Rangers Goalie Henrik Lundqvist stopped all 35 shots. As the series shifted to New York, the Caps desperately needed a win in Game 3. With Alexander Semin scoring twice and Varlamov stopping all 33 shots the Capitals delivered a 4-0 win to get back into the series. However, they were put back on the brink as Henrik Lundqvist again frustrated the Capitals in Game 4, stopping 38 of 39 shots to take a commanding 3-1 series lead with a 2-1 win. The Capitals would bounce back again with another 4-0 win in Game 5, as Rangers Coach John Tortarella lost his cool tossing a plastic bottle into the stands at the Verizon Center. With Tortarella serving a suspension in Game 6 the Capitals forced a seventh game as Tom Potti led the way with a goal and three assists. Game 7 at the Verizon Center would be a tight checking affair with little room for the offenses to work, as the game was tied 1-1 late in the third period. Finally it would be Sergei Fedorov who broke the deadlock with a goal with 4:59 left to give the Capitals a 2-1 that would stand up thanks to the solid efforts of 20-year old Simeon Varlamov who showed why he is considered the goalie of the future after taking over in Game 2. In the second round the Capitals would face the Pittsburgh Penguins in a matchup of the two biggest stars in the NHL Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin. In Game 1 Varlamov continued his strong play, stopping 34 shots as the Capitals took the opener 3-2. Game 2 would see the Crosby-Ovechkin match up take center stage as the two stars each had hat tricks, with the Capitals winning again 4-3. As the series shifted to Pittsburgh the Penguins rebounded to win the next two games to even the series. Back in Washington for Game 5, the Capitals would lose a heartbreaker, as Evgeni Malkin tallied an overtime goal to give the Penguins a 4-3 win to take control of the series. The Capitals would once bounce back as they had their own overtime win in Game 6 at Pittsburgh, with Dave Steckel playing the role of hero with a goal at 6:22 of OT to give the Capitals a 5-4 win. However, despite Game 7 being at the Verizon Center the Capitals would end up falling short as the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Penguins erupted for a 6-2 victory.
2009/10: After their disappointing loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Capitals entered the season hoping they could take the next step. With Alex Ovechkin winning back to back Hart Trophies that was not an unrealistic proposition, but to make the Caps a more rounded team they needed Ovechkin to become a tougher two way player, even if it hurt his goal scoring statistics. Ovechkin may have taken the heed to be a tougher player a bit too serious as he began to take the body more often. This resulted in him missing a month with an upper body injury. Playing with a chip on his shoulder, Ovechkin returned on December 1st and got a two game suspension for a knee to knee hit on Carolina Hurricanes Defenseman Tim Gleason. Despite Ovechkin missing time the Capitals got off to a solid start, posting a 19-5-6 record through the first 30 games. As the New Year arrived, Captain Chris Clark along with Milan Jurcina was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Jason Chimera, opening the door for Ovechkin to take over the Captaincy of the Capitals. The move seemed to agree with the Capitals, as they went on a 14 game winning streak along the way on February 5th; Alex Ovechkin reached the 500-point milestone of his NHL career. He is the fifth player to achieve the milestone in only five seasons, reaching it in 373 career games. Ovechkin would receive another suspension in March for rough play, but the Capitals could not be slowed in the regular season, winning the President’s Trophy for the first time in franchise history with a record of 54-15-13. In the playoffs the Capitals hit a bump in the road right away as they lost the opener to the Montreal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime, as Canadiens Goalie Jaroslav Halak stopped 47 of 49 shots. The Capitals continued to struggle in Game 2 as they fell behind 4-1 in the second period. However, led by Nicklas Backstrom the Caps rallied to tie the game in 3rd period. However, Tomas Plekanec scored to put the Habs in front again with 5:06 left in the game. Facing a second straight loss at home the Capitals would force overtime as John Carlson lit the lamp with 1:21 left, as Backstrom and Ovechkin got the assists. In overtime it would be Backstrom with his third goal of the game just 31 seconds in that gave the Capitals a much needed 6-5 win. In Montreal the Capitals were their dominant self again as they took a 3-1 series lead with wins of 5-1 and 6-3. However, as the series came back to the Verizon Center, it was Canadiens Goalie Jaroslav Halak who stole the show again stopping 38 of 39 shots as the Canadiens won 2-1. Halak was even better in Game 6 stopping 53 shots as the Habs evened the series with a 4-1 win. In Game 7, the ghost of playoff collapses in the past came back to haunt the Capitals as Halak again stood on his head stopping 41 of 42 shots as the Canadiens completed the comeback with a 2-1 win in Washington, marking the second straight season the NHL team with the best regular season was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
2010/11: After winning the President’s Trophy and losing in the first round, the Capitals looked to rebound and prove they could be a true Stanley Cup contender. With Goalie Michal Neuvirth playing well early, the Capitals got off to a flying start, winning 12 of their first 16 games. The Capitals would struggle in December, suffering an eight game losing streak as they ended the year with a record of 22-12-5. On New Year’s Day the Capitals were in Pittsburgh, facing the Penguins at Heinz Field in the annual Winter Classic. The winter classic would take on a slushy feel through occasional rain, as Eric Fehr scored twice to lead the Caps to a 3-1 victory. The game would set the stage for a more bad feelings between the Capitals and Penguins as a hit by David Steckel to Sidney Crosby would eventually lead to the Penguins star missing the rest of the season with Post Concussion symptoms. The Capitals would continue to play mediocre hockey over the next two months. Hoping for a jump start down the stretch, the Capitals acquired Dennis Wideman from the Florida Panthers for Jake Hauswirth, while they sent David Steckel to the New Jersey Devils for Jason Arnott. The moves would have an immediate impact, as the Capitals won nine straight games, posting a 12-2-1 record in March. The Capitals would once again post the best record in the Eastern Conference, as they won three of their last four games in April to post a record of 48-23-11. In the playoffs the Capitals would face the New York Rangers in the first round. The opener would go to overtime tied 1-1, after a strong game by both goaltenders. Eventually Alexander Semin would play the role of hero giving the Capitals a 2-1 win. Game 2 would be a tight defensive affair, as Michal Neuvirth earned his first career postseason shutout in a 2-0 win. As the series shifted to New York, the Rangers claimed a 3-2 victory in Game 3, winning on Brandon Dubinsky’s late goal. In Game 4, the Caps would overcome a 3-0 deficit with three goals in the third period to win 4-3 on Jason Chimera’s double overtime goal. The Capitals would go on to close out the series with a 3-1 win in Game 5 at the Verizon Center. Facing the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round, the Caps got off to a bad start losing the opener 4-2 at home. The Capitals continued to struggle in Game 2, as they trailed late 2-1. Alex Ovechkin would tie the game with 1:08 left in regulation, but the Caps would be struck down in overtime on a goal by Vincent Lecavalier. Needing a win as the series shifted to Tampa, the Capitals took a 3-2 lead into the third period. However, the Lightning would score two goals in 24 seconds to win the game 4-3. The Lightning would go on to complete the sweep with a 5-3 win in Game 4.
2011/12: The Washington Capitals began the season on a high note, with a 4-3 overtime win on a goal by Mike Green against the Carolina Hurricanes at the Verizon Center. The Capitals would go into overtime in their first three games, winning all three with one going to a shootout. The early momentum continued through most of October, as they set a new franchise record, winning seven straight to start the season, before a Defenseman Mike Green went on the injured listed with a groin injury. On November 1st the Capitals coming off two straight losses, trailed the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in the closing moments of regulation. After pulling the goalie, the Capitals tied the game with Nicklas Backstrom as the extra attacker, joining the third line with Alex Ovechkin staying on the bench. Backstrom would tie the game and score the game winner in overtime, but Ovechkin was clearly upset. The Capitals would go into a slump after the benching incident, losing five of their next seven games. Coach Bruce Bodreau would than list Alex Semin as a healthy scratch during a November 21st win over the Phoenix Coyotes, though most in the media sided with Boudreau it caused friction on the team, as their struggled continued. Eventually on November 28th Bruce Boudreau would be fired and replaced by Dale Hunter. The Caps continued to struggle under Hunter, enduring a four game losing streak, while Bodreau quickly found work becoming the new coach of the Anaheim Ducks. As December came to an end the Capitals began to get back on track, starting a four game winning streak as they entered the New Year with a record of 20-15-2, as Mike Green returned to the lineup. However, just as Green returned the Capitals would lose Nicklas Backstrom to a concussion. Making matters worse Mike Green would re-injure and go back on the injured list. January would see Alex Ovechkin awaken from an early season slump as he scored in seven straight games, with the Capitals posting a 5-1-1 record. However, just as Ovechkin was getting hot, he would be suspended three games for a hit to the head of Pittsburgh Penguins Defenseman Zbynek Michalek. The Capitals struggled much of February as they were in danger of missing the playoffs at 29-26-5. The Capitals inconsistent play would continue until the end of the season. However, it would be just enough to slip into the playoffs with a record of 42-32-8. Alex Ovechkin would lead the team in scoring, but his 65 points were the lowest output of his career, 20 points lower than his previous career worst season.
2012 Playoffs: Down the stretch with Goalie Tomas Vokun injured the Capitals called up Braden Holtby from the AHL. Holtby played well down the stretch, as the playoffs began he would be pressed into starting duty as Michal Neuvirth was also injured, as the Capitals who just saw the return of Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green continued to lose players due to injury. As the seventh seed, the Capitals faced the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins in the first round. Not given much of a shot to win the series, Holtby played well in Game, stopping 30 shots before the Capitals lost 1-0 in overtime. Braden Holtby was even better in Game 2, stopping 43 of 44 shots as the Caps earned the split in Boston, winning 2-1 in overtime on a goal by Nicklas Backstrom. The Bruins would win 4-3 as the series shifted to the Verizon Center for Game 3. However, with another heroic performance that saw Braden Holtby stop 44 of 45 shots the Capitals evened the series again with a 2-1 win. In Game 5 the Capitals took control of the series with a 4-3 win in Boston as Troy Brouwer scored with 87 seconds left in regulation. However, with a chance to close out the series at home, the Caps suffered a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 6. Back in Boston for Game 7, the Capitals and Bruins again went to overtime. This time with Braden Holtby stopping 31 of 32 shots, the Capitals would win 2-1 on a goal by Joel Ward, eliminating the reigning champs. In the second round the Capitals would face the New York Rangers. After a flat performance in Game 1, in which they lost 3-1 the Capitals, got the split in the Garden, winning 3-2 in Game 2 as Alex Ovechkin scored the game winner in the third period. Game 3 in Washington would be a battle of the goalies as the scored was tied 1-1 in the third period. The game would end in disappointment for Washington, as the Rangers won 2-1 on a goal by Marian Gaborik. With Mike Green scoring a power play goal with 5:48 left in Game 4 the Capitals won 3-2 to even the series. Back in New York for Game 5, the Capitals were in full control lead 2-1 in final minute on the way to taking a 3-2 series lead. However, with the Rangers rushing the net, Joel Ward was called for high sticking against Carl Hagelin with 21.3 seconds left, getting a double minor. The Rangers would tie the game on a goal by Brad Richards with 7.6 seconds left. With Ward still in the penalty box, the Rangers would win the game 3-2 on a goal by Marc Staal early into the overtime period. Braden Holtby would keep the Capitals alive with a strong Game 6, stopping 30 of 31 shots, in a 2-1 win to even the series again. However, despite another strong game by Holtby the Caps would fall in seven games losing 2-1. Despite falling in the second round again, the Capitals had renewed hope at the end of the season, thanks to Braden Holtby’s breakout postseason, where he posted a 1.95 GAA, and gave the Capitals a chance to win every game. Despite their solid postseason, Coach Dale Hunter chose to return to the OHL as Adam Oates became the new head man in Washington.
2012/13: It was an eventual summer for Adam Oates, as he was elected into the Hockey Hall of Fame and became head coach of the Washington Capitals. However, the start of the Oates era in Washington would be delayed by a lockout. When the season finally started in January, the Capitals appeared sluggish and out of shape, as they won just one of their first seven games. The struggles continued into February, as they dropped three of their next four games. Among the Capitals struggling were Alex Ovechkin, who seemed to have lost his touch, his aggressiveness and his confidence. The Capitals would begin to show life as the month came to a close, winning five of their next eight, but their poor start seemed to have them facing a huge uphill climb, as they held a 7-11-1 record through 19 games during a shortened 48 game season. The Capitals continued to show signs of improvement in March, as they won six of ten games on the road and started inching towards .500 as the ended the month with a record of 16-17-2. This also get the Capitals back in the playoff chase, as the Southeast Division in its final season before realignment was once again the weakest division in hockey, giving the Capitals an opening the may not have otherwise had after their terrible first month. Looking to make some improvements at the trade deadline, the Capitals made several small deals, the biggest of which landed them Martin Erat and Michael Latta from the Nashville Predators for Filip Forsberg. However, the biggest boost the Capitals got was Alex Ovechkin finding his scoring touch. Ovechkin became the best player in the NHL over the last six weeks of the season, scoring 22 goals with 10 assists over his last 20 games. Ovechkin would finish the season with 32 goals to lead the league, as he captured his third Hart Trophy. With Alex Ovechkin leading the way, the Capitals won their first eight games in April, to take over first place on the way to winning another Southeast Division Championship. The Caps would also post a record of 11-1-1 in April as they finished the season with a record of 27-18-3.
2013 Playoffs: In the playoffs, the Capitals would meet the New York Rangers for the fourth time in five seasons. The Capitals would continue their late season hot streak, winning the opener 3-1, as Alex Ovechkin led a three goal surge in the second period. Game 2 would be a battle of goaltenders, as neither team could break trough during regulation. In overtime the Capitals would get a break as Mike Green scored a power play goal to give the Caps a 2-0 series lead. However, as the series shifted to New York, the Rangers would rebound to win the next two games by similar 4-3 scores. Back at the Verizon Center in Game 5, the Capitals got another strong game from Braden Holtby, as they won their second overtime game 2-1 on a goal by Mike Ribeiro. The goalies would battle again in Game 6, this time it would be the Rangers getting a 1-0 win at the Garden, as the Capitals and Rangers found themselves in another Game 7. The home team had won the first six games of the series, which was a positive for the Capitals with Game 7 at the Verizon Center. However, the game would quickly unravel for the Caps, as the Rangers jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the second period. The Rangers would go on to win the game 5-0 to eliminate the Capitals for the second straight season.
2013/14: After losing to the Rangers in a seven game series for the second straight season, the Capitals came into the season looking to make a longer playoff run as realignment put them into the same Metropolitan Division with the Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Capitals would have a tough schedule to start the season, facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Opening Night as the Blackhawks raised their championship banner. The Capitals would lose a goal fest 6-4, two nights later in their home opener the Capitals would win a 5-4 in a shootout against the Calgary Flames. Defensive struggles would be the story early as the Caps lost four of their first five games and finished October with a record of 5-7-0. The Capitals would play much better in November, winning seven of their first nine games. The Capitals again had one of the best offensive teams in the league, as Alex Ovechkin won the Maurice Richard trophy again with 51 goals, but Capitals’ Captain continued to be a one dimensional player, recording a +/- of 35 the worst ever for a 50 goal scorer. Ovechkin was joined by Nicklas Backstrom in leading the team in scoring with 79 points, with Backstrom recording a team best 61 assists. After entering the New Year with a record of 20-15-5, the Capitals would have another rough month in January, winning just four games. However, as the Olympics approached the Capitals began to show signs of life, winning three of their last four games to head into the break with a record of 27-23-9. When the season resumed the Capitals looked to address their struggles on defense and goaltending, acquiring Rostislav Klesla and Chris Brown from the Phoenix Coyotes for Martin Erat and John Mitchell. They would quickly ship Klesla to the Buffalo Sabres along with Michal Neuvirth for Jaroslav Halak who had recently be sent to Buffalo by the St. Louis Blues. Halak played well with the Capitals, posting a 2.30 GAA and a .930 save percentage. With Halak splitting time with Braden Holtby the Capitals who were just outside of the playoffs made a late push, winning four straight games in April. However, they would fall just short of the playoffs, finishing the season with a record of 38-30-14. The Capitals would miss the playoffs by three points, as the Columbus Blue Jackets and Detroit Red Wings; two teams that relocated from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference grabbed the two Wild Card spots in the East. Missing the playoffs for the first time in seven years would lead to the dismissal of General Manager George McPhee and Coach Adam Oates. Director of Player Personnel Brian MacLellan was promoted to General Manager, with Barry Trotz being named the Capitals new coach.
2014/15: Coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs, the Washington Capitals made several big off-seasons moves. The biggest move was the hiring of a new coach, the choice to fill that role was Barry Trotz, longtime bench boss of the Nashville Predators. With an eye towards improving the defense, the Capitals signed a pair of Pittsburgh Penguins Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to long contracts. The Capitals had their ups and downs early in the season, as Alex Ovechkin took over the all-team lead in points for the Capitals franchise. In December the Capitals began to find their groove ahead of the Winter Classic, as they lost just twice in regulation and entered the New Year with a record of 18-11-7. Facing the Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park, the Capitals won the annual New Year’s Day outdoor game 3-2 on a goal by Troy Brouwer with 12.9 seconds in regulation. Spurred by the win in the Winter Classic the Capitals got off to a strong start in January losing just once in overtime in their first seven games in 2015. Despite some struggles in February, the Capitals used a strong March to all but lock up a playoff spot, as they finished second in the Atlantic Division with a record of 45-26-11. Once again Alex Ovechkin was among the league leaders in scoring with 81 points, as he won the Rocket Richard Trophy with a league best 53 goals. Meanwhile, in goal the Capitals got a career best season from Braden Holtby who had a 2.22 Goals Against Average, winning a career best 41 games.
2015 Playoffs: In the playoffs the Capitals would take on the New York Islanders in the playoffs. Despite hosting the Islanders in the Game 1, the Capitals came out flat and suffered a 4-1 loss. The Capitals got off to a slow start in Game 2, as the Islanders took an early 2-0 lead. After trailing 3-2 entering the third period, the Capitals finally got themselves on track with goals Nicklas Backstrom and Jason Chimera to win the game 4-3 to even the series. As the series shifted to New York, Braden Holtby took over, stopping 40 shots to keep the Capitals in the game. However, the Islanders still won the game 2-1 on a quick goal by John Tavares just 15 seconds into overtime. Game 4 would also go to overtime. This time it would be the Capitals getting a 2-1 win, as Holtby had another strong effort, stopping 36 of 37 shots, as Nicklas Backstrom scored his third goal of the series 11:09 into OT. Back at the Verizon Center for Game 5, the Capitals offense came alive with five different players scoring goals to win the game 5-1. It what would be the final game ever played at the Nassau Coliseum the Islanders fought off elimination with a 3-1 win to send the series to a seventh game. Game 7 would take place in Washington, with the Capitals winning 2-1. The key to the win was a strong defensive effort that limited the Islanders to 11 shots, as Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the game winner with just over seven minutes left in regulation. After beating the Islanders the Capitals took on another team from New York, the Rangers who won the President’s Trophy for the best record in the regular season. In the opener, the Capitals won 2-1 in dramatic fashion as Joel Ward scored the game winner with 1.3 seconds left in regulation. After the Rangers recorded a 3-2 win in Game 2, the Capitals took back control of the series with a 1-0 win in Game 3 at the Verizon Center as Braden Holtby won stopped all 30 shots, with Jay Beagle scoring the game’s lone goal in the second period. Holtby was strong again in Game 4, stopping 28 shots as Andre Burakovsky scored twice to give the Capitals a 2-1 win. Looking to close the series out at Madison Square Garden, the Capitals held a 1-0 lead in Game 5 on a goal by Curtis Glencross. However, the Rangers tied the game with under two minutes left and won 2-1 in overtime. The Capitals also suffered a 4-3 loss in Game 6 as the Rangers sent the series to a seventh game. Like Game 5, Game 7 would go to overtime, with the Rangers delivering a 2-1 win to eliminate the Capitals and advance to the Eastern Conference Finals. It was the fifth time the Capitals blew a 3-1 series lead in the postseason.
2015/16: Despite their heartbreaking second round exit against the New York Rangers, the Washington Capitals entered the season with high hopes as they expected a big boost from newly acquired Winger T.J. Oshie. Those hopes were quickly justified as the Capitals got off to an outstanding start, winning eight of ten games in October. The Capitals continued their strong play in November and December as they entered the New Year with a record of 28-7-2, with Goalie Braden Holtby being named second star of the month in November and December. Evgeny Kuznetsov would one up Holtby, as he was named first star of the month for January. Kuznetsov would have a breakout season for the Capitals, as he led the team in scoring with 77 points, highlighted by 57 assists. Many of which went to his Russian comrade Alex Ovechkin who won the Rocket Richard trophy for the fourth year in a row, as the NHL’s only 50-goal scorer. On January 10th in a 7-1 win over the Ottawa Senators at the Verizon Center, Ovechkin scored his 500th career goal. Due to their strong first half the Capitals were able to coast most of the second half as they were by far the best team in the regular season. The Capitals would finish the season with a record of 56-18-8 to win the President’s Trophy for the second time in team history. Braden Holtby, who have one of the best seasons in NHL history, posting a record of 48-9-7, with a 2.20 Goals Against Average and a .922 save percentage would win the Vezina Trophy given the league’s top goalie, while Barry Trotz won the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach.
2016 Playoffs: The Washington Capitals with the best record in the NHL went into the playoffs knowing that it was the postseason where they would ultimately be judged. Facing the Philadelphia Flyers in the opening round, the Capitals used brilliant defense and Braden Holtby to win Game 1. As Holtby stopped all 19 shots to win the game 2-0. Holtby faced more rubber in Game 2 as the Flyers got off 42 shots. However, only one found the back of the net, as the Capitals won 4-1, with four different goal scorers. As the series shifted to Philadelphia, the Capitals turned up the power, scoring a team record five power play goals, two of which came from Alex Ovechkin as Washington won the game 6-1 and had a 3-0 series lead. The Flyers though would not go down without a fight as former Capitals Goalie Michal Neuvirth took over in goal and stopped 31 of 32 shots, as the Flyers avoided a sweep with a 2-1 win in Game 4 at the Wells Fargo Center. Neuvirth was even better in Game 5 in Washington, stopping all 44 shots as the Flyers despite just 11 shots on goal, kept their hope of winning the series alive with a 2-0 win that was capped by an empty net goal from Chris VandeVelde. Michal Neuvrith continued to frustrate the Capitals in Game 6, stopping 28 shots, but Nicklas Backstrom’s goal in the middle of the second period was enough as Braden Holtby earned his second shutout, stopping all 26 shots as the Capitals won 1-0 in Philadelphia. The Capitals would face their old nemesis in the second round, as the Pittsburgh Penguins came in as the hottest team in the NHL. Braden Holtby came up big in the opener at the Verizon Center making 42 saves as the game was tied 3-3 heading into overtime. In overtime T.J. Oshie would complete hat trick to win the game for the Capitals 4-3. The Penguins would bounce back to take Game 2 as Eric Fehr scored late in the third period to win the game 2-1. As the series shifted to Pittsburgh, the Penguins jumped out to a 3-0 lead at the end of two periods. The Capitals would fire 49 shots at Matt Murray but did not break through until the third period when Alex Ovechkin scored at 8:02. Justin Williams would add another in the final minute, but the Caps never could get the equalizer and suffered a 3-2 loss. Jay Beagle gave Washington an early lead in Game 4, but the Penguins quickly answered as the game would go to overtime tied 2-2. In overtime, Patric Hornqvist would beat Braden Holtby to win the game 3-2, giving the Penguins a 3-1 series lead. Facing elimination, the Capitals played their strongest game of the series, winning 3-1 at the Verizon Center in Game 5, as Braden Holtby had a big game stopping 30 of 31 shots. Looking for the clincher at home the Penguins jumped out to an early 3-0 lead as Phil Kessel scored twice. T. J. Oshie though kept hope alive with a power play goal late in the second period. Justin Williams and John Carlson would score in the third period to tie the game, but in overtime the Penguins would win on a goal by Nick Bonino to win the game 4-3 and the series in six. It marked the eighth time in nine playoff matchups that the Capitals were eliminated by the Penguins.
2016/17: After their heartbreaking second-round loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Washington Capitals had to endure the pain of seeing their division rivals raise a Stanley Cup banner on opening night, losing 3-2 in a shootout. The season-opening loss in Pittsburgh would be one of the Capitals only setbacks in the early part of the season, as they began the year winning five of eight games in October. November and December would follow the same pattern as the Capitals were among the top teams in the East with a record of 21-9-5 at the end of December. With the start of the New Year, the Capitals found new life with a nine-game winning streak that began with a 6-2 win over the New Jersey Devils in Newark. Washington would win all seven games at the Verizon Center in January, as they posted a record of 12-2-1 to rise to the top spot overall in the NHL. The Capitals enjoyed a 15-game home ice winning streak in early parts of 2017, as they won nine games overall during February and March. The surge led to the Capitals claiming the President’s Trophy for a second straight season with a record of 55-19-8. Captain Alex Ovechkin had another fine season, with 33 goals and 36 assists. However, the Capitals top scorer was Nicklas Backstrom who had a career-best 86 points, thanks to 63 assists. Also having a big season was T.J. Oshie who matched Ovechkin with 33 goals to lead the team, while Evgeny Kuznetsov had 40 assists. Braden Holtby was once again one of the league’s top goalies with 42 wins, while posting a 2.07 GAA and .925 save percentage.
2017 Playoffs: In the first round of the playoffs the Washington Capitals faced the Toronto Maple Leafs, who were infused with the youth an energy of Auston Matthews, who was the top rookie in the league. In Game 1, the Leafs scored two early goals as Capitals battled back to tie the game on two goals from Justin Williams. In overtime, Tom Wilson would score at 5:15 to allow Washington to escape with a 3-2 win. Game 2 would also go to sudden death; this time the Maple Leafs would get a 4-3 win in double overtime on a goal Kasperi Kapanen. In Toronto for Game 3, overtime was needed again, as Tyler Bozak scored a power-play goal to give Toronto a 4-3 win to take a 2-1 series lead. In Game 4, the Capitals jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the first period. The Maple Leafs would battle back to make it a one-goal game before T.J. Oshie made it 5-3. In the final minute, Bozak scores to make it 5-4, but could not tie the game as Washington evened the series with a 5-4 win. Back at the Verizon Center for Game 5, overtime was needed again with the Capitals winning on a goal by Justin Williams at 1:04. In Game 6 at Toronto, the Capitals got a goal by Marcus Johansson to tie the game as overtime was needed for the fifth time in six games. In overtime Johansson would score again at 6:31 to win the game 2-1 to send the Capitals on to a second-round rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Things did not start well for the Capitals, as they lost the opener 3-2, with Sidney Crosby netting a pair of goals. Game 2, was even worse for the home fans in Washington, as the Penguins put forth a dominating effort, winning 6-2. In Game 3 in Pittsburgh, the Capitals watched a 2-0 lead evaporate in the final minutes, as the Penguins forced overtime with two goals in 48 seconds. The Capitals would recover and win 3-2 thanks to a power-play goal by Kevin Shattenkirk 3:13 into sudden death. With Marc-Andre Fleury stopping 36 of 38 shots, the Penguins took a commanding 3-1 series lead, winning 3-2 in Game 4. Things looked bleak for Washington, as they trailed 2-1 entering the third period in Game 5. Facing elimination, the Capitals got goals by Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov, and Alex Ovechkin to secure a 4-2 win to keep their Stanley Cup hopes alive. In Game 6, the Capitals got two goals by Andre Burakovsky to win the game 5-2 and send the series back to Washington for a deceive seventh game. Game 7, was a defensive battle as neither team scored in the first period. The Penguins broke through in the second period on the goal by Bryan Rust, the Penguins later answered Patric Hornqvist in the third period as the Penguins won 2-0 to end the Caps cup dreams once again. The Penguins meanwhile would go on to dance with Lord Stanley for the second straight season.
2017/18: The Washington Capitals’ front office had dubbed 2017 as the final year of that team’s window to win the Stanley Cup, meaning big changes to the team were inevitable following another early playoff exit. That led to the Capitals beginning the 2017-2018 season without the likes of Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner, Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams and perhaps most importantly, Nate Schmidt. Washington also entered the season with head coach Barry Trotz working under the last year of his contract, while associate head coach Todd Reirden and assistant coach Blaine Forsythe were locked up for another year each. That put Trotz firmly on the hot seat, in charge of what was widely viewed as an inferior roster compared to years past. When the team did take the ice, things looked alright, as the Capitals scored 11 goals over their first two games, winning both of them. Then they fell to the Tampa Bay Lightning in overtime, before being handed their first regulation defeat of the season at the hands of their old rivals, the Pittsburgh Penguins. From there, things spiraled out of control, as the Capitals did not get more than 1.5 games above a .500 record once through their 22nd game in late November. It was widely speculated that this was one of two instances during the season in which Trotz was set to be fired if the Capitals lost another game. But the team rallied, winning three-straight games and 11 of their next 13 to bring their record to 22-12-2 in mid-December. Then another slump arose, as Washington dropped three-straight games, including being shut out twice. This coincided with a four-game points drought for captain Alex Ovechkin. He quickly got back on track though, tallying nine points over the next five games, with at least one point in each of those contests, as the Capitals won all of them. And despite criticism of his demise, Ovechkin finished the season atop the NHL with 49 goals. However, the problems for the Capitals did not stop up front, as starting goaltender Braden Holtby posted career lows in both Goals Against Average (2.99) and Save Percentage (.907). He also failed to record a single shutout all season, after leading all goalies with nine in the prior year. While the Capitals rallied to finish the year with 14 wins over their last 19 games and clinched the Metropolitan Division, Holtby continued to struggle, being outplayed by backup Philip Grubauer. The supposed backup goaltender picked up seven wins over the final nine games, with two shutouts over the final month of the season, leading the Capitals to a third-place finish in the Eastern Conference.
2018 Playoffs: Heading into the playoffs as the third seed in the East was a new feeling for the Capitals, who had entered the postseason as the top overall seed during each of the two previous years. Perhaps that was some of the motivation that they needed as they began their revenge tour on the road to the Stanley Cup. First up were the Columbus Blue Jackets, led by head coach John Tortorella, who has a history of taking out the Capitals. Trotz chose to ride the hot hand in net, as Grubauer drew the start in each of the first two games, with Holtby riding the pine. Things went south quickly, as the Capitals dropped two overtime games at home. It looked like the same old story as the Capitals couldn’t pick up the win in Game 2, despite piling 58 shots on Sergei Bobrovsky. But Holtby got his job back in Game 3 and the Capitals rallied off four-straight wins to advance to the second round. A bit of lip reading during the coaches’ handshake appeared to show Trotz telling his counterpart Tortorella, “I’m gone,” leading many to believe that Trotz would indeed be done with the Capitals at the conclusion of the postseason. The Capitals reward for advancing was yet another second-round matchup with the Penguins, where their previous two seasons had come to an end. Pittsburgh took the first game, before the Capitals rallied off two wins in a row, scoring four goals in each game. Three of the assists in that Game 3 win came from Nicklas Backstrom, who stepped up in a big way. After dropping the fourth game, it was Jakub Vrana who stepped up with a three-point performance of his own to give the Capitals a 3-2 lead in the series. An overlooked routine had developed during the first round of the playoffs that involved Jay Beagle doing a hot lap as the first skater on the ice to begin each morning skate. With the Capitals determined to clinch the series in Pittsburgh and avoid going to Game 7, Alex Ovechkin took over the hot lap the morning of Game 6. After teaching the team was able to find the back of the net just once, Evgeny Kuznetsov broke through the defense for a one-versus-one showdown with Matt Murray. That ended with Kuznetsov burying the puck past Murray, sending the Capitals to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 20 years. That set Washington up for a showdown with the Tampa Bay Lightning in Round 3. The last time those two teams met in the playoffs prior to this series, resulted in the Lighting taking aa 4-0 sweep over the Capitals. And in an unfamiliar situation, the Capitals would have to start the series on the road, as the Lightning were the higher seed. That turned out not to be an issue for the Capitals, as they outscored the Lightning 10-4 on route to a two-game lead in the series. The tide then turned, as Washington dropped three-straight games, despite out-shooting the Lightning in each of them. With their backs against the wall once again, the Capitals received a boost from a big star in Holtby, as he recorded his first shutout of the year, extending the series to a Game 7 in Tampa Bay with a 3-0 victory. It was none other than Trotz who got the call for the hot lap ahead of the do-or-die series finale. And the fire grew hotter after Tom Wilson came out of the penalty box like a bat out of hell to put a beat down on Braydon Coburn and further fuel the Capitals. This led Washington to out-do their Game 6 performance, as they scored four goals this time, with Holtby once again keeping a clean sheet in net. And with that, the Capitals were headed to the Stanley Cup Finals for just the second time in franchise history.
Stanley Cup Final: Washington’s opponent in the final playoff series was the Vegas Golden Knights, who got there on the heels of one of the most successful inaugural seasons of any professional team in history. For every game home or away during the finals, Capitals fans filled the Capital One Arena as well as all of the streets around it, hosting big viewing parties with live bands and big TV screens brought into D.C. On the ice, Washington got off to a rough start in the series, dropping Game 1 in Vegas by a score of 6-4. That meant the Capitals had trailed at one point in every single playoff series in 2018. And Game 2 got off to a rough start, as James Neal put the Golden Knights up 1-0 with a first-period goal. But the Capitals responded with three goals of their own, including unlikely scorer Brooks Orpik breaking a 220-game goal-drought with what turned out to be the game-winner in a 3-2 victory for Washington to even the series at one win apiece. Back in Washington for Game 3, Alex Ovechkin led off the scoring just over a minute into the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov and Devante Smith-Pelly each piled on a goal of their own, with both assisted by Jay Beagle, while the Capitals held Vegas to just 22 shots in a 3-1 win to gain control of the series. They had quite the scare early in Game 4, as James Neal seemed to have a wide-open net in front of him on a Golden Knights power play. But Holtby sprawled across the net, flashing his stick out to stop the puck in what instantly became one of the most iconic saves in Capitals history. And from there, the Capitals really took over, rallying off four-straight goals, before eventually coming away with a 6-2 victory to put them just one win away from getting their names engraved on the Stanley Cup for the first time ever. Ahead of the potential series-clinching game in Vegas, it was Lars “Tiger” Eller who got the nod for the hot lap during the morning skate. He was coming off of two-straight games without a point and finished with a -1 plus/minus in Game 4. A horde of Capitals fans made the trip out west, as the stadium was close to a 50-50 split between supporters of the two teams. As the action unfolded, both teams were held scoreless in the first period. But Jakub Vrana broke the ice on a breakaway goal past old Capitals foe Marc-Andre Fleury just over six minutes into the second period. Evgeny Kuznetsov got the secondary assist on that tally, giving him his 32nd point of the 2018 playoffs, which led all players. None other than former Capital Nate Schmidt followed that up with a game-tying goal of his own before Ovechkin took the lead back for the Capitals with a power-play goal just 34 seconds later. Then the tides turned, as Vegas ended the period with two goals of their own, including one with just 29 seconds left to give them the lead and keep their hopes alive. The Capitals were being out-skated and looked like they did not have enough in them to win it all on that night. But don’t tell that to playoff hero Smith-Pelly, who came up big once again for the Capitals, scoring on a diving shot to tie things up halfway through the third period. That marked his fifth goal in the final two rounds 2018 playoffs after he scored just seven times all year prior to that. Then less than three minutes later, a Brett Connolly shot trickled through Fleury’s legs where none other than Eller was ready to pounce and knock the puck in the back of the net. With that, the sea of red in the streets of Washington, D.C. erupted once again. That turned out to be all it took, as the Capitals held on to clinch the Stanley Cup in five games. Once the Washington Capitals finished their standard celebrations on-ice and in the locker room, the party really began. The next surprise was Ovechkin himself carrying the Stanley Cup through the lobby of the MGM casino with the rest of the team following closely behind. Sharing with fans became a focal point throughout their celebration, as they partied for several days in various locations around Washington and its suburbs.
Written by Barry Cohen (@ScaryBarry4)
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