Before the game, fans lined the street outside Capital One Arena “rocking the red” in support of the Capitals, who one fan said “thrived off that.”
“After last year, I have all the confidence in the world we can do it,” said Donnie from La Plata, Maryland. “This will be exactly like last year — we fight all the way to the end until we get the (Stanley) Cup again.”
Not everyone was so confident. Sherri from Fredericksburg, Virginia, said: “It’s gonna be tough.”
David, also from Fredericksburg, described himself as nervous but excited about Game 7. What was he worried about?
“Just them having one of those off days,” he said. “Game 5 we killed it 6-0 and then we’re just — on the road it seems like this series has been horrible so hopefully, statistically it’s looking good.”
For roughly a period and a half, it did. The Caps raced to a 2-0 lead in the game’s first seven minutes and Evgeny Kuznetsov’s goal in the second period made it a 3-1 advantage. But that would be the final Capitals goal, as Jordan Staal scored the equalizer to stun the crowd at Capital One Arena, and eventually, force overtime, where Brock McGinn scored the game- and series-clinching goal in the second OT.
Some fans expressed disbelief, some were angered, and one woman was glad to see the Capitals lose to Carolina rather than former coach Barry Trotz’s New York Islanders in the second round.
Season-ticket holder Krissie DePollo said that she was almost glad the Caps didn’t have to face their former coach. “I would rather lose to Carolina than I would have to the Islanders,” she said. “I’d rather lose to (Carolina) tonight than I would have to Trotz.”
But Rex Edwards, of McLean, Virginia, is disappointed. “We had a good year last year … They should have won this,” he said.
Bill Wallace, of Capitol Hill, said that it was the lack of puck luck. “We had it last year. We didn’t have puck luck this year,” he said. But despite the bad luck, he said the Stanley Cup playoffs are the most fun to watch because “you really have no great advantage if you’re the best team during the year.”
WTOP’s Michelle Basch and Liz Anderson contributed to this report from Capital One Arena.