With dozens of hats sailing to the Verizon Center playing surface and Chuck Brown’s “Bustin’ Loose” playing over the public address system, the ultimate outcome of the opening game in the Eastern Conference semifinals between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins lay still in doubt.
Fans begged for T.J. Oshie’s hat-trick goal, the game-winning wraparound 9:33 into the overtime session, to stand as called on the ice. The building’s pressure-cooker status reached its peak as referee Dan O’Rourke took off his headset after a review that seemingly lasted as long as this all-time playoff contest itself.
His affirmation of the goal resulted in a raucous scene of euphoria. What more often than not felt like the first round of a heavyweight title bout brought a 4-3 decision in favor of the hosts, the latest step in the to-be-determined journey of this team that, at least for now, wears the hopes of its city on its back.