YOU KNOW THAT sense of wanting to be excited, but being too nervous to let yourself fully get excited?

It’s kind of like moments when the old saying, “If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is,” comes into play.

Well, that’s what the last eight or so minutes of Thursday’s Game 5 of the National Hockey League’s Stanley Cup Final felt like for this diehard Washington Capitals fan.

After Devante Smith–Pelley’s goal tied the score and minutes later Lars Eller’s tally put the Capitals in front of the Vegas Golden Knights 4–3, the Stanley Cup seemed so close to our grasp, yet so far away.

Only seven minutes and 37 seconds remained on the clock, but it might as well have been seven hours and 37 minutes.

Standing on the streets outside of Capital One Arena with the throngs of fellow championship-starved, red-clad Capitals’ supporters, I so badly wanted to let that excitement show as play restarted. But, as superstitious as any hardcore hockey fan, I was afraid if I did, the win wouldn’t happen.

The tension thickened as each second slowly ticked off the clock on the giant viewing screens that were set up in the area. Cheers and applause ringed through the thick humid air each time the Capitals’ defense thwarted a Vegas attempt at an equalizing score.

Then, the clock was gone! ... but the game still went on. Let’s just say, every Capitals fan in attendance was not happy.

It turned out there was a malfunction to the clock at the stadium in Las Vegas. As if the tension wasn’t high enough, for a short time, which seemed more like an eternity, we had no idea when it was going to end.

With the issue finally resolved, the countdowns started to ring out from the crowd. ... 20 seconds ... 15 seconds ... 10 ... 5 ... 4 ... 3 ... 2 ... 1 ... Then an eruption of excitement—and relief rang out—enforced by the Capitals’ players premature celebration on the ice, only to find there were 0.06 seconds left to play due to an icing call.

To some it didn’t matter as the euphoria continued. To others, including myself, another moment of held breath.

One more faceoff.

Fitting for a D.C. sports fan, don’t you think? One last moment of trepidation for myself and the many people around me.

And then, the thousands of unfamiliar Capitals fans and I could officially let loose and celebrate as if we’d known each other all our lives.

The Capitals had finally won Lord Stanley’s Cup!

Tom Leiss is a sports assistant with The Free Lance-Star

Tom Leiss: 540/374-5440

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