May 7, 2012

Carlson's big goal wasted as Caps cough up lead, fall in OT

By Jesse Connolly

Seven seconds. That’s how close Capitals defenseman John Carlson (Marlborough, Mass.) came to being credited with the winning goal in Game 5. That’s how close Washington came to taking a 3-2 series lead back home, where they’d have a chance to eliminate the top-seeded Rangers on Wednesday night. 

After tallying in the third period, John Carlson (Marlborough, Mass.) was on the ice for the Rangers' tying goal late and their winning strike in overtime. (Getty Images)

Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be for Carlson and the Caps, who will now be fighting for their playoff lives when they host the Blueshirts at Verizon Center in Game 6.

With 2:39 gone in the third period, Rangers forward Mike Rupp went off for hooking, giving the Capitals their third power play of the night. With 19 ticks left on the man advantage, former Bruin Dennis Wideman slid a pass over to Carlson, who was stationed five feet inside the blue line.

Carlson ripped one through traffic and past Henrik Lundqvist, putting Washington ahead by a score of 2-1.

With Lundqvist off for the extra attacked and time winding down, Joel Ward – the hero in overtime of Game 7 against the Bruins – was whistled for an ill-timed high-sticking penalty, as he caught forward Carl Hagelin up high right off a faceoff in the Capitals’ zone.

Brad Richards scored the tying marker with exactly 6.6 seconds remaining in the contest, as he sent a shot amid a scramble in front past goalie Braden Holtby, off of Carlson and into the back of the net.

"You don't even look at the time. You're just hoping gets on net or on your stick," Richards told NHL.com. "That last little flurry there was mayhem for the last minute. We kept getting things to the net and one just happened to hop out."

With Ward’s infraction being of the double-minor variety, the power play time carried over into the extra session. At the 1:30 mark, John Mitchell won a faceoff in Washington’s zone against Matt Hendricks, drawing it back to defenseman Marc Staal.

Staal skated toward the center of the blue line and ripped a slapper that sailed through traffic, past the would-be hero in Carlson and by Holtby, giving the Rangers a thrilling comeback win and the Capitals a gut-wrenching setback.

"You can't say it was his fault," Ovechkin said when asked about Ward’s crucial, series-altering penalty in the final minute of the third period. "We all lost the game. We win as a group and lose as a group. … Unfortunately it was close, but not close enough. Tomorrow's going to be a new day and (the next game) is going to be a new game. We've just got to play our game."

Jesse Connolly can be reached at jconnolly@hockeyjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JesseNEHJ.