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.
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