Editor's note: The Stanley Cup turns 125 years old on March 18. To celebrate the historic anniversary, NHL.com talked to the players and coaches who dedicated their lives to winning the Stanley Cup, some succeeding, some failing, but all with incredible stories about their quest for hockey's ultimate prize.
The first time Washington Capitals right wing Justin Williams won the Stanley Cup, he had to spend the final seconds in isolation.
Williams scored an empty-net goal with 1:01 remaining in Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final, essentially clinching the Carolina Hurricanes' 3-1 victory against the Edmonton Oilers and setting off a joyous celebration at RBC Center.
But Williams received a roughing penalty after an altercation with Edmonton's Ryan Smyth with 21 seconds remaining, sending him to the penalty box and separating him from his teammates for the joyous final shift.
"Unfortunately, I wasn't on the bench when the game ended," Williams said. "But it was just for a little bit."
When time expired, Williams jumped onto the ice and quickly joined the rest of the Hurricanes in exchanging hugs and soaking in the realization of their hockey dreams.
"For the most part, I think one of the NHL's promotional campaigns had it right; there are really no words to describe it," Williams said. "You have to look at the emotion on the players' faces to know what it's all about and to know how hard they've worked to attain that goal and how long they've worked to attain that goal. It's just a moment of sheer ecstasy and doing it with your brothers that you've gone to war with every day, it's pretty special."
It's also a moment when players reflect back on their careers.
Williams, who was 24, went through some tough times with injuries after the Philadelphia Flyers selected him in the first round (No. 28) of the 2000 NHL Draft. A Jan. 20, 2004 trade to the Hurricanes gave him a fresh start and he set career-highs in 2005-06 with 31 goals, 45 assists and 76 points.
He then began establishing his reputation as a clutch performer in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 25 games during the Hurricanes' run to the championship. It culminated with his empty-net goal, one of seven goals he has scored in seven career Game 7s, and being handed the Stanley Cup.
"It's just the climax, the pinnacle. It's the apex of everything in hockey," Williams said. "Then to see the most iconic trophy that you've only seen in pictures and on TV given to you, hey, that's quite emotional."
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Williams, now 35, won the Stanley Cup with the Los Angeles Kings in 2012 and 2014. He also won the Conn Smythe Trophy as most valuable player of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs after scoring 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 26 games.
Williams said all three championships are equally special to him.
"You celebrate it with different people for the most part every different time, so I certainly can't pick one that was better than the other ones," he said. "Your favorite Stanley Cup is the next one. You just want to keep winning them once you get it."
With the Capitals (45-17-7) in the first place in the League standings with 97 points, Williams is focused on getting his hands on the Stanley Cup for a fourth time. The past two times Williams won the Stanley Cup, he made sure to look where his name was engraved when he previously won it.
"And I hope to do it again this year," he said.