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Alex Ovechkin lifted the Prince of Wales Trophy
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TAMPA Authentic Teuvo Teravainen Jersey , Fla. (AP) Alex Ovechkin lifted the Prince of Wales Trophy, spun around and set it back down on a table.The rest of the Capitals joined him for a team photo after beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 on Wednesday night in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final, a victory that sent Washington to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years.A decade of playoff frustration is fading fast.”I think Ovie has been on a mission,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. ”They wanted this game, no question.”Ovechkin scored early and Andre Burakovsky added two second-period goals as the Caps continued to shed a label as postseason underachievers.Braden Holtby stopped 29 shots for his second straight shutout and the Lightning, who led the NHL in goals during the regular season, failed to score in the last 159 minutes, 27 seconds of the series – a stretch of nearly eight periods.Ovechkin, who had never advanced beyond the second round, scored 1:02 into the winner-take-all showdown he had described as probably the ”biggest game in my life.””The first goal was very important,” Ovechkin said. ”After that you could see we have all the momentum on our side. Holts was unstoppable today. He was special. Everybody was all in. Everybody was sacrificing their bodies. I think we all deserve the win.”To earn a spot in the Stanley Cup Final, where they’ll play the Vegas Golden Knights, the Capitals beat the top-seeded Lightning three times on the road, improving to 8-2 away from home this postseason.It’s Washington’s first Cup Final appearance since 1998, and the first during Ovechkin’s 13-year career.”We played a great game,” defenseman John Carlson said. ”We deserved to win this.”Two games after being a healthy scratch for Game 5, Burakovsky became the 17th player to score a goal for Washington in the playoffs this year – four shy of the NHL record – when he beat Andrei Vasilevskiy on a breakaway at 8:59 of the second period.The winger, who played two games in the first round against Columbus before sitting out 10 straight with an upper-body injury, added a breakaway goal to make it 3-0 heading into the last period.Nicklas Backstrom had an empty-netter to complete the rout.”What a game. What an experience. We had a lot of guys pitching in,” winger T.J. Oshie said. ”The biggest guy of all had to be Holts. He played fantastic, back to back shutouts.”Tampa Bay Womens Victor Rask Jersey , which rebounded from losing the first two games at home to win three straight for a 3-2 series lead, had plenty of chances. A couple of shots clanged off the post, Yanni Gourde was unable to get his stick on a loose puck in front on an empty net and the game gradually slipped away.Washington was the more physical team in evening the series with a bruising 3-0 victory in Game 6. They played with urgency from the start again Wednesday night and never let up.Tampa Bay’s last goal in the series came 33 seconds into the second period of Game 5, which the Lightning went on to win 3-2.”We’re here to win as team, no matter who gets the credit,” said Holtby, the fifth goalie to deliver a Game 7 shutout to clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Final.”I felt we could have won every game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. ”We ran into a tough Washington team that was probably feeling the same thing, and once you get this far you’ve probably done some magical things on the way.”It was the 33rd time in league history that a Game 7 was required to determine a Stanley Cup finalist. Home teams are 21-12 in those games.Tampa Bay also played Game 7 in the Eastern Conference final in 2015, when they blanked the New York Rangers, and again two years ago, when they lost 2-1 to Pittsburgh.Both of those deciding games were on the road. The Lightning had never lost a Game 7 at home before Wednesday night.”It’s going to take a few days to digest this. It’s tough to sit here right now and think of positive things and how it was a pretty great season,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. ”It doesn’t seem that way when you have this group – and we’ve been to this position before – and you can’t find a way to give yourself a chance a win. We thought we had that group. It’s just an empty feeling right now.”Notes: Ovechkin and Backstrom made their 11th career Game 7 appearance, one shy of Boston’s Zdeno Chara for the most among active NHL players. In addition to Chara, only five other players in NHL history have appeared in more Game 7s: Patrick Roy (13), Scott Stevens (13), Glenn Anderson (12), Ken Daneyko (12) and Stephane Yelle (12). … Evgeny Kuznetsov’s assist on Ovechkin’s early goal extended his points streak to 10 games. … Vasilevskiy made 19 saves. The Lightning outshot the Capitals (29-23) for the first time in the series.— NEW YORK (AP) There is usually another guest at the table when Gary Bettman and his wife, Shelli, go out to dinner with other couples during the NHL playoffs.Friends come to accept the glow of the TV screen set up so Bettman can keep an eye on games, ready to go from enjoying a nice meal to running a multibillion-dollar business and back again. The commissioner of a storied league with 24 teams in the United States and seven in Canada doesn’t put work on hold for life or vice versa. When his 11-year-old grandson Alex DeBrincat Jersey , Matthew, wanted to hang out with him in Tampa during All-Star weekend, he brought him along for meetings.”They all blend together because I’m never off,” Bettman said. ”It’s all part of what I do and who I am.”For 25 years, Bettman has overseen the growth of the NHL from $437 million in annual revenue to nearly $5 billion, guiding the league into and out of work stoppages and expanding hockey’s reach to places that never seemed a fit for the fastest game on ice.The Stanley Cup Final opens Monday in Las Vegas, where Bettman had a guiding hand in the expansion process that yielded the Golden Knights and led to the most successful inaugural season in league history. When he was there in November 2016 for the unveiling of the team name, Bettman was booed by the crowd and could not have cared less.”No, no, keep the booing,” he told the crowd. ”That proves you’re now an NHL city.”Once perhaps an unlikely leader for a game with its roots north of the border, the 65-year-old lawyer from Queens who got his start in the NBA has become one of the most powerful and long-lasting influences in professional sports. More than two decades into the job, Bettman still feels energized by the thrill of work – and the sugar supplied by dark chocolate Milky Way candy bars doesn’t hurt.He isn’t going anywhere, either.”I think he’s the best that we could do,” said Jeremy Jacobs, the Boston Bruins owner and board of governors chairman. ”I mean, there are things that might irritate you from time to time about him. But you know where his heart and soul is, he’s always interested in the game, the improvement of the game.”It hasn’t always been pretty. Bettman has had a role in three lockouts, the relocation of five franchises, has repeatedly denied any link between head injuries and the degenerative brain disease CTE Cam Atkinson Jersey Kids , and recently refused to allow NHL players to go to the Olympics after doing so five times. Confident in his decisions and willing to accept the ramifications to his reputation and legacy, Bettman has earned respect – sometimes begrudged – and made some enemies while serving longer than the other three major sports commissioners combined.”He’s a force, so he’s not going to roll over because somebody thinks it’s a good idea,” said John Collins, a former NHL chief operating officer. ”He’s very principled and he sticks up for his principles. And those principles could be business principles or they could be just kind of moral principles and he’ll fight for that. That’s the way he lives his life, and that’s the way he runs the league.”Part of Bettman’s work involves keeping 31 ownership groups and markets on the same page. Former Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President and CEO Richard Peddie said Bettman bringing almost every owner into the league has its benefits.”They’re all there because Gary ultimately blessed them, so I think they always have some kind of IOUs,” Peddie said. ”I don’t mean that in a disingenuous or unfair way. But he was the gatekeeper, so he has that going for him.”Bettman, who was NBA general counsel under then-Commissioner David Stern and a senior vice president before starting at the NHL on Feb. 1, 1993, orchestrates things in such a way that there’s rarely public dissent. Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis has watched how Bettman builds a united front among owners.”He’ll pre-brief and sell some of the key owners, if you will, and he backchannels and he’ll literally call and brief every owner personally on a subject so that when you come to the meeting, you’re briefed, you’ve asked your questions,” Leonsis said. ”Because he puts in the work and he has the data and his competence is not questioned in any way and he does have the data, he’s able to land the planes, if you will, with efficiency.”Bettman acknowledges some events during his tenure were not of his making. To this day, he insists moving the Quebec Nordiques to Colorado and the original Winnipeg Jets to Arizona had to be done www.kingsproshop.com , and that the 2004-05 lockout that wiped out an entire season was necessary to ensure the long-term health of the league.”There are things I wish might not have happened,” Bettman said. ”Work stoppages are a good example. The fact is I knew what we needed, and we had to get it. And if it took a long time to ultimately convince the Players’ Association that this was in everybody’s best interest, I wish it could’ve happened sooner, but it didn’t.”There are some in hockey who can’t forgive Bettman for the lockouts, most recently one in 2012-13. There are others like Peddie who’d rather consider them part of an entire body of work that includes overseeing expansion into the Sun Belt.”It’s putting hockey where it hasn’t traditionally been,” deputy commissioner Bill Daly said. ”That’s proven successful. … I think his legacy of having franchises there and putting hockey in nontraditional markets and making it relevant in nontraditional markets kind of exceeds the business success of the teams.”The deaths of enforcers Derek Boogaard and Bob Probert brought CTE and hockey to the forefront, and the NHL is currently facing a federal lawsuit from more than 100 former players who allege it had the resources to better prevent head trauma, failed to properly warn players of such risks and promoted violent play. In a July 31, 2015, deposition, Bettman said: ”There’s no medical or scientific certainty that concussions lead to CTE.”Bettman said the NHL was a leader on concussion studies, testing and solutions as far back as the 1990s. He also said he believes the lawsuit has no merit.”People can embrace that position, understand it, dismiss it – that’ll be individual opinions,” he said. ”But I have to do what I have to do on behalf of the game, and it starts with player safety being a priority.”Bettman is paid more than $9 million annually and with that is willing to take the brunt of responsibility for the NHL’s good, bad and ugly. He doesn’t have too many fans at the Players’ Association, but owners line up behind him based on his work in raising franchise values, negotiating U.S. and Canadian TV deals and steering the sport through trouble.”I think the league is lucky to have had him as long as they’ve had,” said Collins Womens Josh Anderson Jersey , who worked under Bettman for nine years. ”That role for any sport is a really tough one and it’s really tough when you’re in it for a long time because it’s inevitable that you collect a lot of dents.”The dents don’t keep Bettman up at night, but he works so much that he’ll sleep at most 6 hours on the weekend and often much less. When he returned home at 2 a.m. from a playoff game this spring, he walked 13-year-old golden doodle Lola and 4-year-old Teddy before bed, slept under three hours and postponed working out with a trainer to leave the house at 6:15 for an 8 a.m. television appearance.”I don’t get a lot of sleep and I don’t need a lot of sleep,” Bettman said in his office overlooking Sixth Avenue that has a table-top hockey game, books of the sport’s history and plenty of family photos. ”There are probably certain days where people in my family will think I have narcolepsy, because if I sit down I might fall asleep for five or 10 minutes. But what I do is energizing, so that keeps me going. And I eat a lot of candy.”Bettman and Daly spent two hours earlier this week poring over a draft of the 2018-19 schedule while having Chinese food for lunch – a less glamorous part of the job than handing out the Stanley Cup each June but part of the gig.So is planning for the future, even though Bettman is under contract through 2022 and shows no signs of slowing down. Daly, who’s 54, thinks Bettman will work long enough that owners should look to someone younger as the next commissioner, but his boss is more than comfortable handing him the reins if anything went wrong.”What if God forbid I get hit by a bus?” Bettman said. ”Well, I’ve built an organization that, if need be, I’d hope they’d miss me somewhat, but if need be could carry on.”—
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