Long before it became clear the Washington Capitals were going to win the Stanley Cup, all eyes — and cameras — were fixed on Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals’ captain began to show more and more emotion as Game 5 rolled on. And in the last nail-biting minutes of play, the towering Russian became the most entertaining player on the ice. (And on the bench, for that matter.)
Needless to say, hockey fans got a big kick out of Ovechkin’s rollercoaster reaction to his surroundings. (The fan reaction on page 7 is absolutely priceless.)
But first, the third period
After 40 minutes of play, the Las Vegas Golden Knights held a 3-2 lead over the Capitals and were playing with enough gusto to win the bout and force a Game 6. But Washington answered the call, scoring two unanswered goals in the third frame to move ahead of the Golden Knights 4-3. Capitals forward Lars Eller scored the go-ahead goal, picking up the loose puck behind netminder Marc-Andre Fleury and shoveling it into the net. Cameras cut to Ovechkin on the bench as he launched up off his seat to tackle and hug teammates next to him.
Next: But then, the mood changed drastically.
In the last few minutes of regulation …
Things got tense on the Capitals bench when Vegas pulled Fleury from the net for an extra skater. Cameras cut to Washington’s bench, where Ovechkin was beginning to show signs of stress. The towering Russian sat with his shoulders hunched, his head hanging down as he tried to compose himself. He lifted his head up a couple times to look up at the center ice cube. Teammates began skating by and patting on the back in support.
Next: Then as time expired …
The reaction at the final buzzer
With just a couple of seconds left before the NHL playoffs were officially over, Ovechkin’s emotions poured over and he began screaming like a madman. As his teammates on the ice began to throw off their gloves and hug each other, the captain chucked his helmet to the side and catapulted onto the ice to join in the celebration. One blogger captured the reaction and summed up Ovi’s overflowing emotions in a tweet: “Perfect. Just perfect.”
Next: The huddle on the ice …
Sharing the moment with his team
Needless to say, Washington lost their minds on the ice after clinching the Final. But of all the shots on the ice, the most touching was quite possibly the hug Alex Ovechkin shared with Nicklas Backstrom. Both the captain and the Swedish center have played their entire NHL careers with the Washington Capitals, and have skated many minutes in the past as linemates. Cameras caught Ovechkin and Backstrom hugging, and fans expressed being moved to tears.
Next: One of hockey’s most time-honored traditions …
The handshake line
Of course, the Capitals’ on-ice celebration had to be briefly halted so they could take part in the handshake line. While many of the Capitals’ players exchanged pleasantries with members of the Vegas squad, Ovechkin went through and hugged nearly half the players in line. While commentators said there was likely nobody as relieved as Ovechkin, fan comments below the video showed that the Capitals faithful were just as happy and relieved as their captain was.
Next: The celebration continued …
Celebrating with coach
Of course, the Capitals’ Cup win was a team effort. (How can you not give Braden Holtby snaps for how stellar he was in net?) And Ovechkin made sure to celebrate with every member of the team, including head coach Barry Trotz. The five-foot-nine bench boss went in to hug the six-foot-three skater, and the two ecstatically yelled in each other’s faces for a few seconds. The reaction perfectly summed up the relationship between the two.
Next: Last but not least …
Finally raising the Cup
He stood next to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and grinned uncontrollably as he stood for a photo with the Stanley Cup. Then finally, Ovechkin — who basically hadn’t stopped screaming since the final buzzer — got to hoist Lord Stanley’s Mug over his head. In the middle of his first skate around the ice with the Cup, the broadcast feed cut out for a few seconds and left fans at home watching a blank screen. One hockey fan joked on Reddit: “Raised (the Cup) so hard the f****** signal went out.” And with how juiced Ovechkin was, that’s entirely possible.