There was going to be a first-time champion no matter what in this year's Stanley Cup Finals, and the Washington Capitals finally stepped up to silence all of their doubters. They completed that process on Thursday night, as Lars Eller slammed home a rebound for the winning goal with 7:37 to play in the third period, giving the Capitals a 4-3 Game-5 win over the Las Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena. The win gives the Capitals their first Stanley Cup Title in franchise history, meaning the first for Alex Ovechkin in his 13-year career. As time expired in the third period, Ovechkin led the charge from the bench with hands on his head in disbelief, as he finally got to hoist and kiss the cup. His 15 goals this postseason set the record for the Capitals, who took 43 years to earn this feat, as they were in their first Finals series since 1998. It is the first sports title for the D.C. area since the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl in 1992. Ovechkin went on to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Finals MVP to the surprise of no one. This celebration comes at the expense of the expansion Golden Knights, who became the first expansion team to win three playoff series in its inaugural season. They got 29 saves from Marc-Andre Fleury on Thursday, while Nate Schmidt, Reilly Smith, and David Perron all scored on the night. The Knights had won seven of their past eight home playoff games before dropping the last two in this series. T.J. Oshie was the most emotional after the game, dedicating the win to his father, who is battling Alzheimer's. There was plenty of emotion all over the ice from the road team, who will celebrate their first title with a parade on Tuesday.
Cole Continues to Deal For Astros on the Road
Gerrit Cole has taken his game to another level since joining the Houston Astros this season, and he continued that upward pace on Thursday night. Cole allowed one run over six innings, improving to 7-1 on the season with a 5-2 win over the Texas Rangers. Cole allowed just three hits and struck out eight, but he surpassed 100 pitches at the end of the sixth, which signaled the end of his night. Evan Gattis provided the support he needed with a two-run home run in the fourth and an RBI single in the sixth to lead the offense. Alex Bregman also went deep, while Jose Altuve singled home a run and had three singles on the night to bring his major league leading total to 88. Gattis stayed hot with his ninth home run in the past 20 games and fourth home run off of Rangers starter Cole Hamels in 34 career at-bats. The Rangers were unable to get a hit off of Cole after the third inning, as they were held to three singles by the right-hander. The Astros starter brought his American League-leading strikeout total to 124 and opponent batting average to .171. Hamels got off to a nice start for the Rangers by not allowing a hit until the fourth inning, but dropped to 3-6 after giving up five runs on seven hits in 7.1 innings, which is good for his longest start of the season. His six losses matches his largest total in a season since joining Texas in 2015. These two in-state and division rivals continue on Friday night, as the Astros will send another ace to the hill in Justin Verlander.
Span Haunts Former Team, Mariners Win Again
The team that the Astros are chasing in the AL West are the Seattle Mariners, who are rarely suffering defeats as of late. They stayed hot on Thursday by taking Game 1 of their road series, 5-4, over the Tampa Bay Rays. Denard Span, whom the Rays dealt to the Mariners earlier this season, haunted his former team with a solo home run in the third inning, which was one of two long balls in the win for Seattle. Mitch Haniger broke the game open a bit in the fifth with a two-run shot, making it 5-1 at the time, and the Rays wouldn't score again until the ninth. Mike Leake was dominant on the mound and pitched in to the ninth inning, allowing two runs on eight hits with the pitch count in great shape. He didn't reach 100 pitches until his final throw of the night, as he was taken out after one baserunner reached in the final inning. Tampa Bay made things interesting against reliever Alex Colome, another former Ray, as Johnny Field pulled the deficit to just one with a three-run double. Although, Daniel Robertson ended any threat by grounding out to third base, giving Colome a scary save against his former team. That also gave Leake his sixth win of the year, as the Mariners now hold a major league leading 19 one-run wins and 28 one-run decisions. On the other hand, the Rays dropped to 9-15 in one-run games. Seattle has won 10 of their past 13 games and kept pace with the Astros to hang on to their one-game lead for first place in the West. Haniger's home run kept him hot, as he is already one RBI shy of his career high of 46, which was set last season. These two teams will play three more times this weekend, including on Friday night.