"The Capitals Finally Win The Big One"
Prior to the Stanley Cup Finals run of 1998, there was no debate about the single most thrilling moment in Washington Capitals history.
It came at Capital Centre, late on the night of April 16, 1988.
"It" was Dale Hunter's overtime goal in Game 7 of Washington's opening round Stanley Cup playoff series with Philadelphia.
Drama such as Hunter's heroics typically needs no further explanation. Here, even the phrases "Game 7" and "Overtime Goal" don't adequately tell the whole story.
The Capitals had trailed in the series 3 games to 1, and fell behind in the 7th game, 3-0, before rallying to forge a 4-4 tie at the end of regulation.
Even that doesn't provide full context.
The season before, it was the Caps who had taken a 3-1 series lead, over the Islanders, only to lose games 5 and 6.
Then, on the same Capital Centre Ice, they lost game 7 in the 4th overtime.
Now it was Hunter, circling behind the Flyers defense, taking a lead pass from Larry Murphy, and sliding the puck between Ron Hextall's pads to complete his breakaway.
Caps fans - 18,130 in the arena, watching locally on HTS, and nationally as I did on ESPN - exploded with the cheer stifled and swallowed for an entire year.
To be sure, there was playoff heartbreak in the years before the Hunter goal, and in the years that followed, too.
On this one night, though, the emotion of the moment was captured beautifully by game broadcaster Jim Hughson of Canada's TSN-TV:
"The Washington Capitals finally, finally, won the Big One."