NEW YORK | Jay Beagle had won four of his first six faceoffs, then Brad Richards beat him twice in the final 30 seconds. Matt Hendricks had won five of his first seven, then Richards beat him on the game-winning goal in overtime that handed the Washington Capitals a stunning 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday night.
It was impossible to figure that faceoffs and the penalty kill, both areas the Caps had thrived in during these playoffs, were part of their downfall.
“[Faceoffs are] always been a big part of the game,” coach Dale Hunter said. “It’s not just the centermen; it’s everybody involved in it – the wingers, the D, who can win the draw. When you have the man advantage, they got an extra guy out there to try to win the draw. It’s one of those things.”
Joel Ward’s double-minor for high-sticking put the Caps on the kill, where they were 14-for-16 in the series. The Rangers hadn’t gotten a shot on their three previous power plays in Game 5.
With goaltender Henrik Lundqvist pulled, New York scored on a scramble in front, not your typical power-play goal, but a puck that Braden Holtby couldn’t cover and John Carlson couldn’t keep from sliding into the net.
“Six-on-four, yeah, that’s a tough one when you know they’re going as hard as they are,” defenseman Karl Alzner said.
With 1:54 left on the second half of the Ward penalty, the Caps just needed one more kill to push it to a regular overtime game. But after John Mitchell beat Hendricks on the faceoff, Marc Staal’s shot from the point tipped off a sliding Brooks Laich’s stick and past Holtby, who never saw it.
“It was more just a regular kill. We were doing a great job until then,” Alzner said. “We got tied up a little bit in the faceoff and gave the guy more time than we’d like. And like I said, from there I don’t really know what happened.”