Caps give up late lead, fall in OT to desperate Rangers


Caps give up late lead, fall in OT to desperate Rangers

Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers Friday night in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at Madison Square Garden:

How it happened: After scoring his first career playoff goal, Curtis Glencross committed a neutral zone turnover to Jesper Fast, who helped set up Ryan McDonagh’s game-winning goal with 9:37 gone in the first overtime period, giving the Rangers the win and keeping their season alive. Fast carried the puck into the Capitals’ zone and fired a cross-ice pass to Derek Stepan. With fans screaming for him to shoot, Stepan dropped a pass for McDonash, who ripped a shot through legs and sticks for his second goal of the playoffs.

What it means: The Rangers avoided elimination, sending the series back to Washington for Game 6 on Sunday night at 7 p.m. The Caps still lead the series 3-2 and can clinch a berth in the Eastern Conference Finals with a win.

How it got to overtime: Caps veteran left wing Curtis Glencross, benched by coach Barry Trotz for three games in the first round of the playoffs because he “can’t wait” for players to find their games in the postseason, broke a scoreless tie with 9:06 remaining in the third period when he backhanded in his own breakaway rebound for his first career playoff goal. Tom Wilson began the play by poking the puck away from Rangers defenseman Kevin Klein, allowing Matt Niskanen to hit Glencross for a clean breakaway goal.

However … the Rangers were 101 seconds away from elimination when Derek Stepan dropped a pass for Chris Kreider and the 24-yer-old left wing snapped a shot that appeared to tick off Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik and into he far right corner of the net for his third goal of the playoffs.

The Caps nearly won it in regulation, but Henrik Lundqvist held his ground on a Jason Chimera shot from the slot off an incredible no-look pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov from behind the net.

Goal, no goal: With 2:08 remaining in the second period, the Caps thought they grabbed a 1-0 lead when a shot by defenseman Matt Niskanen appeared to carom off the back of Joel Ward’s shoulder and into the net. Referee Kevin Pollock immediately waved off the goal, saying Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist did not have a chance to play the puck because Derek Stepan pushed Ward into him. In short, no penalty, no goal.

Here’s an explanation from series officiating manager Rob Shick, via a pool reporter:

"The goaltender wasn't allowed to play his position in the crease. Incidental contact [by Ward]. I support the call. Results in no goal, no penalty."

Nisky business: Aside from the goalies, Niskanen might have had one of the most instrumental plays of the game with 6:30 remaining in the second period when a shot by Chris Kreider at the side of the net trickled through the crease and appeared headed toward the goal line when Niskanen alertly swept it away.

Save of the night: Take your pick among any of Marty St. Louis’ shots. Holtby stoned the 39-year-old right wing on the doorstep in the opening minutes of the game with a Gumby-like split save. He snared a point-blank wrister from St. Louis with his catching glove early in the second period.  

Messing with Holtby’s head: About an hour before the game, while Braden Holtby was doing his normal pregame meditation/visualization in the front row of seats behind the net, a teenaged Rangers fan approached him and asked for a photo. Holtby politely obliged, smiled for the camera, gave the kid a fist pump and went back to his rapid-eye-movement, stick-twirling, run-to-the-locker-room routine.   

Starry night: Among those in the Madison Square Garden crowd were actor Michael J. Fox, retired tennis star John McEnroe and real estate mogul Donald Trump. 

MORE CAPITALS: Friday Six-Pack: Who should be feeding Ovi?

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."


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4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

4 reasons the Caps beat the Blue Jackets in Game 5

The Columbus Blue Jackets were the better team for large stretches of Game 5, but they ultimately weren't good enough. The Washington Capitals defended home ice for the first time this series and escaped with a 4-3 overtime win to take a 3-2 series lead and push the Blue Jackets to the brink.

Here's how Washington won Game 5.

A fluke bounce off of Sergei Bobrovsky’s back

Much was made coming into Game 5 of the fact that the road team had won every game to this point in the series. After winning two straight, it was imperative that for the Caps to come in and take advantage of the home crowd. But Columbus was the better team to start and scored a shorthanded tally for the game’s first goal. There was not much to like about the start…until a fluke bounce tied the game at one. Nicklas Backstrom had the puck behind the goal line and tried to feed it in front. Bobrovsky stuck his stick out to block the pass, but the puck had so much spin on it, it bounced up and off the netminder’s back into the net. A bad start ended up not costing Washington as the score was tied at 1 after the first.

The penalty kill

In the first two games of the series, the Caps gave up four power play goals on eight opportunities. Since then, Washington's PK has been lights out. The Caps gave up five power plays to Columbus in a penalty-filled contest, but killed off all five of them. Washington has not allowed a power play goal since Game 2, killing off 13 straight opportunities in the process.

A critical save by Braden Holtby

The Caps looked like they were out of gas in the third period. They held a 3-2 lead at the start, but yielded the game-tying goal to Oliver Bjorkstrand just 2:30 in and had to survive just to reach overtime. They were outshot 16-1 during that period. Luckily for them, Holtby was on point. All 15 saves Holtby made that period were critical, but none was better than highway robbery he committed on Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Considering how gassed the Caps looked that period, that goal would have been tough to come back from.

Nicklas Backstrom

There was no question who the player of the game was in this one. Backstrom scored the Caps' first goal off the back of Bobrovsky, then deflected in the overtime winner for his second goal of the game. But it goes beyond what he did on the ice. After the game, Barry Trotz said some of the team leaders stepped up in the locker room in between the third period and overtime. He would not name names, but did confirm Backstrom was one of those who spoke out.