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Smith-Pelly, Capitals defy expectations by winning Stanley Cup

Forward plays key role for NHL champions after Devils bought him out

by Bill Price @BillPriceNHL / NHL.com Editor-in-Chief

LAS VEGAS -- Devante Smith-Pelly said he couldn't remember what happened on his tying goal in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, and the Washington Capitals forward didn't seem to care.

The Capitals had won their first Stanley Cup championship 30 minutes earlier with a 4-3 victory against the Vegas Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday, and Smith-Pelly was standing amid the Cup celebration, soaking it all in.

All around were teammates posing for photos with the Cup, hugging family members, and at one point, the large number of Capitals fans who made the trip to Las Vegas starting chanting, "D-S-P!"

 

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It's a scene that didn't seem possible for Smith-Pelly, who was bought out by the New Jersey Devils following the 2016-17 season and had to make the Capitals out of training camp after signing a one-year, two-way contract for $650,000 as an unrestricted free agent July 3, 2017.

But he became a key member of the Capitals with 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in an NHL career-high 75 games in the regular season and eight points (seven goals, one assist) in 24 Stanley Cup Playoff games, including a goal in Games 3, 4 and 5 of the Final.

"This is amazing. I never thought this is how the season would end," said Smith-Pelly, who turns 26 on June 14. "I appreciate Washington wanting to bring me in and give me a try. This is great."

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm5: Smith-Pelly ties it while falling down

Smith-Pelly started the Capitals comeback in Game 5, tying it 3-3 at 9:52 of the third period. The play began when defenseman Brooks Orpik stopped the puck at the blue line and flipped it toward the net. The puck deflected off Golden Knights forward Alex Tuch's stick, floated in the air, and landed in front of the net at the feet of Smith-Pelly, who kicked it to his stick with his left skate and beat goalie Marc-Andre Fleury while falling to the ice.

"I saw the puck coming toward my foot, it hit my foot, and that's when I blacked out," Smith-Pelly said. "I don't really know. I kind of swung at it, and it all worked out."

Lars Eller scored the Cup-winning goal 2:31 later.

Smith-Pelly finished the Final with three goals on seven shots, 12 hits and four blocked shots in the five games.

"You just want to contribute any way you can," said Smith-Pelly, who has 93 points (40 goals, 53 assists) in 341 regular-season games over seven seasons with the Capitals, Devils, Montreal Canadiens and Anaheim Ducks and 16 points (13 goals, three assists) in 48 NHL playoff games since being selected by Anaheim in the second round (No. 42) of the 2010 NHL Draft. "Whether it's a blocked shot or whatever. It feels good."

Video: WSH@VGK, Gm5: Smith-Pelly on role with Capitals

Smith-Pelly isn't the only one who defied expectations by winning the Stanley Cup this season. He said the Capitals, who had not advanced past the second round of the playoffs since 1998, when they were swept in the Cup Final by the Detroit Red Wings, followed the same path.

"We've pushed through all that all season. We've been doubted all year," Smith-Pelly said. "We knew we were going to get some looks [in Game 5] and we were going to capitalize, and that's what we did."

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