LAS VEGAS — Alex Ovechkin is a Stanley Cup champion at last, and he has another piece of hardware too.
The Washington Capitals captain won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs after leading his team with 15 goals this postseason.
“It means everything,” Ovechkin said. “We have been waiting a long, long time, since day one.”
Ovechkin also had 12 assists to finish second on his team with 27 points. Ten of Ovechkin’s goals came on the road.
The Capitals won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history after finishing off the expansion Vegas Golden Knights in five games. Ovechkin scored a goal in the second period in Thursday night’s Game 5, giving the Capitals a 2-1 lead. Washington ended up winning 4-3 on a late third-period goal by Lars Eller.
It was the first championship for a professional D.C.-based team in 26 years when the Washington Redskins won the Super Bowl.
“It’s just like a dream,” Ovechkin said. “It was a hard, long season. We fight through it. We worked so hard through all the years and we were together. It was a whole one team, stick with the system and it doesn’t matter what happened, even after the [second] period, we knew we just have to push it and get the result done. That’s it.”
Ovechkin edged out teammate and linemate Evgeny Kuznetsov for the Conn Smythe. Kuznetsov, a center, tallied 32 points this postseason — the second most in a single playoff year over the past 20 postseasons. Only Evgeni Malkin had more with 36 in 2009.
Ovechkin, who became the first Russian-born captain to win a Stanley Cup, is the fourth European-born player in NHL history to earn the Conn Smythe Trophy. He follows Pittsburgh’s Malkin (2009), Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg (2008) and Detroit’s Nicklas Lidstrom (2002).
“It’s pressure off,” Jaromir Jagr, who played for the Capitals from 2001 to ’04, told ESPN about what it means for Ovechkin to win a Cup. “Nobody is gonna talk about it. It’s huge. It’s not easy to win the Cup. But he truly deserves it. I didn’t see many games, but what I saw, he played the best I saw him play the last 10 years, for sure.”
Ovechkin won his seventh league scoring title this season after scoring 49 goals for 87 points in 82 games. His goals accounted for 19.1 percent of the Capitals’ scoring this season. Ovechkin, who has 607 career goals, has played in 1,003 regular-season games, all with the Capitals.
“I think there were a lot of series where maybe Washington got eliminated, but [Ovechkin] had a great series. He probably took the brunt of the criticism just because he’s the captain and the highest-paid guy,” veteran defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I think a lot of guys feel for him in that situation. If you watched the reaction of his teammates when he got the Cup, I think it speaks volumes about how guys feel about him. He’s a very unique captain. You’ll probably never find another guy like him. He leads in a very unique way. But he definitely pulls guys into the fight.”