NEW YORK – The Capitals still believe it was a goal.
The game officials, obviously, disagreed.
With 2:08 remaining in the second period of a scoreless game, Joel Ward parked himself in front of Henrik Lundqvist and got into a bit of a shoving match with Rangers center Derek Stepan. While they were tussling in front of the goal crease, Caps defenseman Matt Niskanen cranked a shot from the point.
The shot appeared to hit Ward in the shoulder and the puck popped into the air and landed in the net, a few feet away from Lundqvist, who had been bumped out of his crease by Ward.
Despite Ward’s celebratory leap and a loud cheer from the Caps bench, referee Kevin Pollock immediately waved off the goal.
“They just said there was incidental contact,” Caps coach Barry Trotz said after the Caps’ 2-1 overtime loss, which sends the second-round series back to Washington for a critical Game 6 at Verizon Center. “We felt that obviously, he was pushed in [by Stepan]. They made the call and that was it. We just deal with it and move on.
“On that one, I felt two things: that Lundqvist came outside the blue [paint] and engaged a little bit of contact, and then Ward was pushed in.”
The series’ designated officiating manager, former NHL referee Rob Shick, said he supported Pollock’s on-ice ruling. Since incidental contact is a non-reviewable matter, the NHL war room in Toronto was not consulted on the play.
“The goaltender wasn't allowed to play his position in the crease,” Shick said. “Incidental contact [by Ward]. I support the call. Results in no goal, no penalty."
The Caps nearly scored minutes after the non-goal, with Lundqvist stopping Jason Chimera on another deceptive pass from Evgeny Kuznetsov from behind the net.
“The guys did a good job of bouncing back from that,” Caps defenseman Karl Alzner said, “because it can be frustrating having a goal that gets disallowed. But we stuck with it.”
Special teams play: The Rangers and Capitals went 0-for-2 on the power play in Game 5. The Caps are now 1-for-8 on the man-advantage in the series and 3-for-21 in the playoffs. The Rangers are 1-for-11 in the series and 4-for-31 in the playoffs.
Slowing Ovechkin: New York defensemen Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh did an excellent job on Alex Ovechkin, holding him to just two shots on goal. Ovechkin had six more attempts blocked and one miss the net in Game 5. He has not scored since his incredible individual effort resulted in a goal in Game 2.
Faceoffs more even: After the Caps dominated the faceoff circle in Game 4, the Rangers were much better in Game 5, winning 48 percent of the draws. Nicklas Backstrom won 11 of 22 faceoffs, while Jay Beagle won 10 of 18.
By the numbers: The Caps are now 3-10 in series-clinching games. They are also 3-8 in Game 5s when leading a series 3-1. Of the 10 times the Caps have held a 3-1 series lead, they are 6-4. But when they’ve led a series 3-1 and lose Game 5, they are 3-4..
Look ahead: The Caps have scheduled a 12:30 p.m. practice at Kettler on Saturday. They have not practiced since an optional skate on Tuesday.
MORE CAPITALS: Glencross accepts responsibility for game-ending mistake