The list of iconic goals in the Washington Capitals‘ 44-year history is a short one.
Dale Hunter’s breakaway goal against the Philadelphia Flyers has always had a special place in the hearts’ of the fans.
Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s overtime winner followed by the bird celebration in Pittsburgh will no doubt stand the test of time.
There’s also Joe Jeneau’s overtime winner against the Buffalo Sabres and Alex Ovechkin‘s goal just 62 seconds in against the Tampa Bay Lightning, both of which sent the Capitals to the Stanley Cup Final.
But there has never been a goal more important than the one scored on Thursday by Lars Eller.
Eller’s third period tally against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 stood as the Stanley Cup-clinching goal, thus permanently etching his name in the history of the team.
Eller had the presence of mind to watch for the puck after a shot from Brett Connolly was saved by goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. When the puck trickled through the pads and sat behind the Vegas netminder, Eller quickly got inside positioning on defenseman Luca Sbisa and tapped the puck into the empty net.
And how fitting that it would be Eller.
Let’s not forget how this postseason began for Washington. After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Game 3 in Columbus stood as a must-win game for the Caps. Just like the two previous contests, Game 3 required overtime. The next goal would either doom Washington to a 3-0 deficit in which only four teams in the history of the NHL have ever overcome, or it would put the Caps right back in the series.
In double overtime, a crazy carom finally ended the game in Washington’s favor with Eller picking up the goal.
In the magical 2018 postseason run, it was the Capitals’ third line center who scored the team’s first game-winner and the last. He gave the team hope when they were on the edge of another disappointing playoff exit and then finished off the improbable run to the title.
When fans look back on this season, the big-name players will always be remembered for how they led the team. Alex Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s performances will be remembered as will “The Save” by Braden Holtby.
And so will Eller whose efforts both made this run possible and also finished it off with the biggest goal in franchise history.
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