Bettman defends National Hockey League expansion draft in Vegas

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"I've never seen a team come together like we did here". I'm not laying juice with the Capitals consistently winning as an underdog on the road.

Alex Ovechkin, the face of the Capitals franchise who for years bore the brunt of the blame for his team's shortcomings, became the first Russian-born captain to hoist the Stanley Cup and was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the play-offs. Washington has a shockingly lengthy franchise history of playoff collapses, but these Caps promptly won all three potential closeout games in their first three playoff series this spring.

On Thursday, the Capitals celebrated in the most rewarding way possible in the world of hockey - taking turns skating the ice with the coveted Stanley Cup.

"Nobody expected us to be here", said Gallant "It'll feel a lot better in a few days, but tonight's a tough loss. To share it with each other and everyone, it was great".

Vegas' incredible expansion season finally ended, and so did the Capitals' wait for a title since their debut in 1974. They got clutch goaltending from Brayden Holtby, including his miracluous paddle save off Alex Tuch in Game 2 that seems to be the turning point of the series when viewed in the rear-view mirror.

"It doesn't come easy", said Holtby. "It took years. Years of heartbreak".

This team might be in their first season, but they do not want their season to end. Washington entered the third period in Las Vegas down 3-2, but a pair unanswered goals in the final period sealed the Cup.

Ovi still wants his teammates thinking about the Golden Knights, not that silver trophy.

Devante Smith-Pelly tied the game with 10:08 left, sweeping a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury while falling down.

Kuznetsov, who finished the regular season with 27 goals and 56 assists, scored 12 goals and had 20 assists in the postseason.

During the biggest minute of the entire 2017-18 season, the clock malfunctioned. "It was the first year", Ovechkin recalled.

Since then, the Caps had not advanced past the second round of the playoffs, including 11 seasons with the club's long-time leader, Alexander Ovechkin, who joined the team in 2005. It's nice to be part of it.

The results, at times, were ugly - leaving the Capitals with two choices: get up or stay down. "He probably took the brunt of the criticism just because he's the captain and the highest-paid guy", veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik said. This is something you'll never forget.

The Capitals were down 3-2 to the Lightning in the Eastern finals, but Holtby became a star again. Las Vegas is 7-1 in its last eight games versus a team with a winning percentage above.600. He nearly certainly would have been fired had the Caps lost to either the Blue Jackets or Penguins.

It's all just so hard to figure, that this was the year that the Capitals would break through. He had seven goals in 24 playoff games.

After Lars Eller scored the go ahead goal for the Caps with 7:37 to go and Washington held on until the final buzzer, people inside the arena shot their arms up in glee, ran onto the basketball court at the center of the multi-purpose facility or even chucked their beer straight into the air. "So I got behind him and the puck just squeaks through". This moment, I'll remember for the rest of my life. "You don't know. After the year, you're kind of like, 'What happened?"

"Kuz is a great player, he's a really, really talented player", Vrana said. "Everybody on the bench is hugging each other, and the emotion is like, I can't believe it". "For me personally, I don't try to think about it too much what's going on and just try focusing on different things".