Instant analysis of the Capitals’ 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers in the seventh and deciding game of the Eastern Conference Semifinals Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden:
How it happened: Eric Fehr lost a faceoff to Derek Stepan and after Braden Holtby made a split save on a Dan Girardi slapper from the point, the rebound kicked out to Stepan, who snapped it into the top half of the net for the game-winner with 8:36 remaining in overtime.
What it means: The Capitals failed in their bid to reach the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 1998. They also fell to 3-6 in Game 7s in the Alex Ovechkin playoff era, which began in 2008 with a Game 7 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers. They fell to 2-3 in Game 7s decided in overtime. The Rangers will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in the conference finals.
Curtain call? Wednesday night’s loss may have been the final game in a Caps jersey for unrestricted free agents Mike Green, Joel Ward, Jay Beagle, Eric Fehr and Tim Gleason. All are set to go to free agency on July 1. Of that group, Beagle and Fehr appear to be the most likely to return next season, followed by Ward, Gleason and Green. Curtis Glencross, who the Capitals acquired from Calgary for a second- and third-round pick in the 2015 NHL draft, also will become a free agent. He was a healthy scratch in four of the Caps’ 14 playoff games.
Self-fulfilled prophecy: Ovechkin’s first-period goal was a thing of beauty, but he didn’t do it on his own. Nicklas Backstrom won an offensive zone faceoff and Marcus Johansson scooped up a loose puck and flipped a backhand pass over the sticks of both Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh to find Ovechkin streaking through the slot. Ovechkin took full advantage, snapping a wrister into the top right corner of the net. It was his fifth goal of the playoffs and 36th career playoff goal.
But that wasn’t all Ovechkin did in that first period. He drilled both McDonagh and Girardi on his first few shifts, letting everyone in the building know that he was in Game 7 to win it.
How Rangers tied it: Caps defenseman Mike Green gave the Rangers their fourth power play of the night when he cross-checked Dan Girardi into he boards and New York finally capitalized when J.T. Miller found Kevin Hayes all alone in the left circle for a tap-in. The goal was Hayes’ second of the playoffs and came with 6:22 gone in the second period.
Save of the night: It’s hard to come up with a bigger save than the one Braden Holtby made with 2:17 remaining in the opening period when he closed the pads to stop Rick Nash on a shorthanded breakaway. Nash, who has one goal in the series, went to his backhand but Holtby patiently waited him out for the save.
Hit of the night: With 10:27 remaining in the third period, Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik annihilated Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle with a stiff shoulder to the head. Boyle tried to get to his feet and fell, then tried again and fell. He was helped to the dressing room and did not return