It looked like the Washington Capitals had this one in the bag. Up 2-1 in the third period, the Capitals were playing their trap that coach Dale Hunter has successfully instilled into this team. The Rangers were clearly frustrated. The crowd at Madison Square Garden was getting antsy. Then with only 21.7 seconds remaining, Joel Ward took an ill-advised double-minor for high sticking. The Rangers took advantage as Brad Richards tied it off a mad scramble with only 6.7 seconds left to force overtime. The Rangers followed that up only 1:35 into overtime as Mark Staal’s point shot eluded a screened Braden Holtby, to give the Rangers a 3-2 win and a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference semi final.
The Rangers actually came out of the gate strong, outshooting the Caps 17-4 in the first period, while having a wide territorial advantage in the process. However the Rangers only managed one goal in the period, as Anton Stralman’s wrist shot beat Holtby on the short side.
The Caps rebounded in the second period, as they were more stern in their own zone while managing a few more scoring opportunities. The Caps did even the score as Brooks Laich fired a wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist. The Caps started to play the trap, and the first signs of frustration were setting in on the Rangers.
The trend continued in the third as the Rangers frustration led to a Chris Kreider hooking minor. The Caps capitalized on the ensuing power play, as John Carlson slapped home his second of the playoffs. It looked like the Caps were in control, and did have chances to seal the game. But too often, they made one too many passes, or Lundqvist made the key save to keep the Rangers in it. Then the final minute and overtime spelled doom for Washington.
This was a heartbreaking loss for the Caps. However, they need to overcome this adversity, and get ready for Game 6 on Wednesday night at the Verizon Centre. Their season is on the line, and the Caps need to find that resolve that got them through the Boston series, to force a Game 7.
1. Mark Staal
2. Brad Richards
3. Braden Holtby