WASHINGTON -- Alex Ovechkin's double-decker bus brought up the rear of the Washington Capitals' championship parade Tuesday, but he's been the unquestioned leader of this Stanley Cup party.
Ovechkin made sure the seemingly endless sea of red-clad fans got what they came to see, holding the Stanley Cup aloft at the front of his bus for much of the parade down Constitution Avenue and doing it again when he took the stage at the National Mall.
"Look at this," Ovechkin said to the crowd. "Look at the people that's here. We thought it was going to be crazy, but it's basically nuts. You guys are killing it."
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Ovechkin, the Capitals captain and the Conn Smythe Trophy winner, has been soaking in every second of the celebration since the 4-3 win against the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday that clinched the Capitals' first championship in their 43-season history.
On Saturday, the lefty threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Washington Nationals played the San Francisco Giants. On Monday, he and Braden Holtby brought the Stanley Cup to "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" in New York.
Back in Washington on Tuesday morning, Ovechkin spent a little time with one of his biggest fans, 13-year-old cancer survivor and youth hockey player Alex Luey. Ovechkin scored a hat trick with Luey, a Niagara Falls, Ontario native, in attendance as his guest for a 4-2 win at the Toronto Maple Leafs on Nov. 25.
Video: Ovechkin thanks fans and hypes the crowd up
Luey also attended a 3-2 win at the Buffalo Sabres on Feb. 19 and a 5-2 win against the Maple Leafs in the 2018 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series outdoor game in Annapolis, Maryland on March 3. Ovechkin scored in each game and did not forget his good luck charm after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup, inviting Luey and his family to the parade.
Luey; his mother, Catherine; father, Scott; and stepmother, Mallory; took some photos with Ovechkin and the Stanley Cup before boarding a bus to the parade route.
"I always hoped they would win the Stanley Cup," Alex Luey said. "Never thought I'd be here at the parade."
The Capitals have done some of their partying privately, but a lot of it has been in public. They've taken the Stanley Cup among their fans on the streets and in restaurants in Washington, and have frolicked with them in outdoor fountains.
The parade and rally with hundreds of thousands of fans took the celebration to a new level.
"Finally, we start playing hockey like we can party," Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom said. "So that's a good thing."
Ovechkin, 32, and Backstrom, 30, have waited the longest for this among Capitals players. This was Ovechkin's 13th season with Washington and Backstrom's 11th. They rode together with Brooks Orpik, Capitals owner Ted Leonsis and president Dick Patrick.
Unsatisfied with one championship, Ovechkin echoed T.J. Oshie's sentiment by leading the crowd in chants of "Back to back!" Then Ovechkin led the crowd in singing what has become the Capitals' anthem over the past five days: "We Are The Champions."
As recently as a year ago, it appeared the Capitals might never get a parade like this. They had been eliminated by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Eastern Conference Second Round for the second season in a row after winning the Presidents' Trophy for a second consecutive season.
Then came an offseason of roster turnover that included the departures of forwards Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams, and defensemen Karl Alzner, Nate Schmidt and Kevin Shattenkirk. With Barry Trotz coaching the season on expiring contract, it was unclear what direction the Capitals were headed.
But Ovechkin remained confident they would be a contender. He closed the rally Tuesday with a reminder of his proclamation on the first day of training camp, that "We're not going to be [bad] this year."
"It was just us saying, 'We're not going to [stink] this year,'" Ovechkin said. "We're the Stanley Cup champions!"