This guy. (Photo credit: Bruce Bennett)

The Washington Capitals went back to the dimly lit den of sin called Madison Square Garden on Monday night. Against the New York Rangers, with whom they were tied 2-2 in the series, the Caps struggled to muster the offense that had characterized their last couple games, but they did have a little traction on the power play. Unfortunately for them, however, the Rangers had more.

Anton Stralman got a softy on Braden Holtby in a dominant first period for the Rangers. The tide turned in the second period, and Brooks Laich evened it up with a sneaky snap after an offensive-zone faceoff.

John Carlson earned the lead with a barrage of slap shots on a third-period power play. But in the final 20 seconds of the game, Joel Ward’s high-sticking penalty gave Brad Richards the tying goal. With 7 freaking seconds left.

So we went to overtime once more, but it didn’t last long. Marc Staal ended it on the power play.  Rangers beat Caps 3-2 (OT).

  • Joel Ward, man. That penalty hurt, but I’m gonna give him a pass. Fencing with Hagelin like he was, it’s way too easy for a stick to ride up like it did. Goofs happen– even in the playoffs. With 20 seconds left. hweougweoguwe. One bad penalty has cost this team so much. We won’t know exactly how much for a few days.
  • Braden Holtby‘s first goal against was a soft one, coming from outside through a screen that looked an awful lot like the Escape Goat. Still, if Holtby had controlled that puck, we’d all be singing happy songs right now. Instead it’s like Beck’s Sea Change up in here.
  • It looked like the Rangers dominated this game. The shot totals were silly (26 to 10 after 40 minutes) and the Rags got the early lead, but the game was closer than it seemed. You can thank a defiant Caps blueliner squad for keeping New York on the periphery and some offensive gusto for creating scoring chances (many of which did not count as shots). The Rangers made their outside shots count, recording their first and the eventual game-winner in that style.
  • The penalty kill was sterling for 59 minutes. Guys like Brooks Laich and Jay Beagle were stunning while playing a man down, gasting the flabber of a not-that-awesome New York PP until the final 10 seconds of the game. But it went bad. Oh so very bad.
  • Nick Backstrom‘s third period breakaway backhand beat Henrik cleanly, but that stupid crossbar said, “away with you, puck!” Unrelated note: let’s increase the size of the net by like a quarter inch next season, mmk?
  • After this series is over but before the handshakes, can Jason Chimera and Chris Kreider race end-to-end? My money is on the guy who didn’t get whistled for a phantom high-stick on Dennis Wideman.
  • The Caps were egalitarian in the shot-blocking game, totaling 25 among 12 players, including the captain. Shots, however, were a more exclusive affair. The Caps were kept under 20 in regulation, with Brooks Laich and Jason Chimera accounting for half of them. Alex Ovechkin had not a one.
  • Despite a rough season in his own end, John Carlson‘s slapshot was a bright spot in the regular season campaign. Now, in the second season, Captain America’s slapshot should have been the GWG. Should have. Should have.

Series record: Rangers 3, Capitals 2

I’ve never seen anything like that. The Capitals had a strangehold on the Rangers with precious seconds left in the game. One bad penalty and a worse penalty kill lost them the lead and the game in the space of two minutes.

Explosive decompression. The air got sucked out of the Capitals in the blink of an eye. The guys have to feel like they got the wind knocked out of them right now. What should have been a cakewalk to the conference finals is now something much different.

There’s a shadow hanging over Wednesday’s game six. We knew it would be an elimination game, but we didn’t think it would be for our guys.

How are they going to react to this loss? To have the victory on the tip of their sticks only to see it snatched in a blink– it’s gotta be humbling for them. Will Braden Holtby withstand the anguish? Will Alex Ovechkin return to prominence? Will Jason Chimera regain his step?

Hell. Yes.

Shake it off. There’s a lot of hockey left to be played. See you Wednesday night.

  • http://twitter.com/Funployee Greg Girard

    This one feels different than the triple OT loss… this one feels like the hockey gods really hate this team. I just can’t even believe how devastating this loss is, it was like… we were gearing up to go to bed happy and then in the blink of an eye the Rangers win it. I pray that the Caps can win in 7 but I’m not so sure if that will happen, fortunately the worst case scenario (losing game 6) would be in front of a very favorable home crowd. Even getting to game 7 is better than losing that one… so I think it will be okay. No loss will ever sting like this one did… it’s all up from here.

  • John Peavy
  • Pete

    Hagelin has sensitive skin….Sure is a shame Avery didn’t teach him how to moisturize before he got kicked out of the NHL. Yeah I am slightly bitter right now. Ready for the series to head back to Washington though. Go Caps.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja n a

    Ohhhh the bitter acrid taste of ashes … but tomorrow and Wednesday are different days :)

  • http://www.churchthought.com Matt Steen

    Joel Ward = Esa Tikkanen?

    Please no, not again.

  • http://www.facebook.com/bryantpthomas Bryant Thomas

    I won’t say the loss was his fault, but that was an absolutely disgusting penalty for Ward to take.

  • http://twitter.com/FedFedRMNB Feds

    “Let’s the size of the net by like a quarter inch next season, mmk?”

    Also, left post should be inch closer to the right… game-tying goal would never happen.

  • http://twitter.com/FedFedRMNB Feds

    Also, every time the Caps lose they find the new (always absolutely epic) way to do so.

  • Muzz

    For the life of me I cannot figure out what would possess Holtby to think it was a good idea to remove his pad from between the puck and the net. Keep it pinned to the post and the game ends after a few whacks. I KEEP SEEING IT OVER AND OVER IN MY HEAD!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1005713165 Pat Magee

    Metallica. Every time…………….. ARGH

  • Dave

    You all are being too kind. This loss landa squarely at the feet of Joel Ward. This has to be one of the most stupid penalties of the season. This has quite possibly cast the Caps the series.

  • serpent

    Yes, it was his fault. A bad penalty to take at any time, but that was so very stupid. Just a little composure on Ward’s part, just a LITTLE!, and we would be celebrating.

  • JessHughes

    It was 6.6 seconds. This was a gut punch. When I told my 4.5 year old this morning how the Caps lost (he’s a huge fan but bedtime is bedtime), I said,”Welcome to being a Caps fan.” Fingers crossed they can rebound for Game 6 — Go Caps!

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    I just don’t agree.

    To say it’s solely Joel’s fault absolves the PK and goalie, the stars who didn’t convert on odd-man rushes, and the rest of the team for not shooting at all.

  • KareeLyn

    I’m totally going to rally for tomorrow. I promise. But I need to wallow for just a second… that was unthinkably brutal. It kinda felt like Russian Machine Momentarily Broke….

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  • http://twitter.com/David_Root24 David R

    Well said…Just shake it off and bounce back.

  • Maxrokz

    You guys are such a joke on this blog. “dimly lit den of sin”? Wasn’t Holtby crying about the big bad bright lights at the garden and how they reflected off the ice in game 1? Go get some cheese with your wine and just be happy the refs. completely blew game 4 and handed the last 5 minutes of that game to the Caps and that your choking team still has life.

  • Chris

    FYI, re-watch the Backstrom breakaway. It didn’t ‘cleanly beat’ Lundqvist. He got a piece of it, which is why it hit the bar.

  • Dave

    Lets see, one goal lead with 20 seconds left to play, 6 on 5, high stick, 4 minute penalty, now 6 on 4, 13 seconds later game tied, OT starts, 6 on 5, Rags win. Yeah it’s lies at Wards feet, pure and simple.

  • http://www.russianmachineneverbreaks.com/ Peter Hassett

    No.

    http://www.nhl.com/scores/htmlreports/20112012/PL030215.HTM

    Beagle, Hendricks, and Laich lost 7 faceoffs to end the game. After playing a neutral game, the puck was in the Caps zone non-stop at the very end.

    It’s a team sport.

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