After outshooting the Capitals 38-18, the New York Rangers found themselves trailing 2-1 with 22 seconds remaining. It looked as though the Capitals were going to steal Game 5 on enemy ice and head back to Washington leading 3-2 in the series.
Then the Rangers caught a break, as Joel Ward got careless with his stick -- like, really careless -- and caught Carl Hagelin in the face. Two minutes. Even better, Ward made Hagelin bleed his own blood. Four minutes.
In a series where the margin for error has been slim, this was a big error, and the Rangers made the Capitals pay. 1:57 later, Ward had served both penalties.
Just 15 seconds after he went to the box, with only 7 seconds to go in regulation, Brad Richards tied the game after beating braden Holtby to a loose puck in the crease:
It was the capper on a clutch performance from Richards, who had 8 shots attempted and won 12 of 18 faceoffs, including all 4 he took in the final two minutes of regulation to hem the Capitals in their own zone. He loses those draws, there's no pressure, there's no high-sticking penalty, there's no game-tying goal.
Then, 1:35 into overtime, with Ward serving the back half of the double minor, Marc Staal gave the Rangers the 3-2 win, sinking the Capitals with a slapper from the blue line:
John Mitchell won the draw and banked it off the boards to Staal, who managed to get the shot through two diving Capitals.
And just like that, the Rangers had stolen Game 5 right back. Nobody expected it. According to Elliotte Friedman, Henrik Lundqvist admitted he was already thinking about going to Washington down 3-2 when Richards scored.
As is usually the case when your opponent scores the game-tying and game-winning goals while you're in the penalty box, Ward is the goat here.
(And, as is usually the case when you're the goat and a person of colour, a pack of idiots took to Twitter and Facebook to say the usual, horrible, racist things about Ward. Like I said a couple weeks back, if you are a fan of a hockey team, then it's pretty much a given that you share the fandom with some vile, ignorant people.)
But it doesn't seem fair to pin this loss on Ward. The Rangers threw everything they had at the Capitals goal Monday, with 88 shots attempted in the game. Sure, 40 didn't even make it to Braden Holtby -- 25 were blocked, 15 missed -- but when you press for 60 minutes like New York did, you're going to get rewarded most of the time.
In this case, they were, and the Rangers' reward is that they head back to Washington with a chance to close out the series and head to their first Eastern Conference Final since 1997.
- Sports & Recreation
- Joel Ward
- New York Rangers
- Brad Richards
- Carl Hagelin