Washington Capitals beat Vegas Golden Knights to win Stanley Cup

For the first time in franchise history, the NHL's Washington Capitals have won the Stanley Cup.

The Caps took the Stanley Cup Final four games to one, with a 4-3 victory Thursday night in Las Vegas over the Vegas Golden Knights, a first-year expansion team that made a stunning run to the championship round.

"It doesn't matter what happened before," Caps captain and star Alex Ovechkin said. "We just won it."

"Look at the smiles on my teammates. This is something you'll never forget. This moment, I'll remember for the rest of my life. I'm so happy. It's unbelievable."

— Alex Ovechkin, Capitals captain and Stanley Cup playoffs MVP

"We did it," added Ovechkin, whose 15 playoff goals set a franchise record and helped him win the Conn Smythe Trophy as this year's playoff MVP. "That's all that matters. Look at the smiles on my teammates. This is something you'll never forget. This moment, I'll remember for the rest of my life. I'm so happy. It's unbelievable."

Washington's Devante Smith-Pelly tied the game midway through the final period, before Lars Eller scored the go-ahead goal with 7:37 remaining in regulation – putting the franchise, which debuted in 1974, finally at the top of hockey after 43 seasons.

The victory capped a storybook year for the Capitals after years of disappointment and postseason failures, and solidified Ovechkin’s status among some of the all-time greats with the first championship of his career.

And of course, there was a little drama before the Capitals' agonizing wait to hoist the trophy could come to an end: The game clock stopped working on the T-Mobile Arena scoreboards during the final minutes, and the Capitals angrily protested while they played on. Unfortunately for Vegas, the home team never got close to scoring a tying goal.

After losing Game 1 to Vegas, the Capitals rallied back to win four straight and deliver the city its first team sports championship since D.C. United won Major League Soccer's title in 2004.

Ovechkin scored early on a power-play goal to give him a franchise-record of 15during the postseason. While in front of the net, Braden Holtby outplayed his counterpart and three-time Stanley Cup champion Marc-Andre Fleury, with 28 saves in Game 5 to help his team claim the NHL’s ultimate prize.

A sea of red-clad fans filled the streets of D.C. to celebrate their team’s victory back home, while thousands of Capitals fans were on hand in Vegas to witness franchise history.

"It doesn't come easy," said Holtby. "It took years. Years of heartbreak. Years of breaking things down and trying again, breaking things down and trying again, and this group never gave up. And we finally did it."

"It doesn't come easy. It took years. Years of heartbreak. Years of breaking things down and trying again, breaking things down and trying again, and this group never gave up. And we finally did it."

— Braden Holtby, Washington Capitals goaltender

"I'm so happy for the group that has gone through the misery," said Washington coach Barry Trotz, a first-time champ in his 19th season behind an NHL bench.

The Capitals put an end to the incredible Cinderella story of the Golden Knights, who hadn't lost four consecutive games in their entire inaugural season.

Reilly Smith scored a go-ahead goal late in the second period for the Golden Knights, who won seven of their first eight home playoff games before dropping the last two.

Nate Schmidt and David Perron also scored in the second period, but Fleury's 29 saves included a stopped puck that dropped underneath him where Eller swept it home for the Cup-winning goal.

Washington won its 10th game on the road this postseason to tie the NHL playoff record.

While past editions of the Caps created their team's reputation for postseason flops in part by losing five playoff series in which they had won three of the first four games, Ovechkin's latest group promptly closed out all four of its series this year on the very first try.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.