Ice hockey: Capitals celebrate reaching the Stanley Cup

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The Independent Online
WASHINGTON was celebrating late into the night on Thursday, as the Capitals, finally did what no one thought possible, writes Andrew Marshall in Washington.

After 24 seasons marked more often by despair than delirium, they made it into the finals of America's most prestigious ice hockey prize; the Stanley Cup.

By beating the more fancied Buffalo Sabres 3-2 on Thursday night, the Caps won the National Hockey League Eastern Conference finals by four games to two. They will now face either the Detroit Red Wings or the Dallas Stars, depending on the outcome of their playoffs. The Red Wings lead three games to two, and were hoping to tie up the seven-game playoffs last night.

Washington is not a town where ice hockey normally warms the blood. The last time a baseball team won the World Series was 1924 (They are long gone, and hopes are now pinned on the Baltimore Orioles).

Only DC United, the city's soccer team, have shown themselves to be capable of calling themselves champions.

By winning the Prince of Wales trophy, they have assured themselves of a place in history, but the Caps will now want more, as will their success- starved fans.

"It's been a long time coming," said Dale Hunter, the team captain.

The Sabres were by no means a pushover. Dominik Hasek, their goal tender, was an Olympic gold medallist and is regarded as the best in the game. But Olaf Kolzig, the huge Caps goaltender (his nickname is "Godzilla"), also played a blinder, stopping 39 of 41 shots.

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