- The Washington Times - Friday, May 8, 2015

NEW YORK — Curtis Glencross thought he had it.

Brooks Laich was streaking down the right side of the ice, seconds ticking away in overtime on Friday, and Glencross, the almost-hero for his goal earlier that night, knew the Washington Capitals could sew up their series victory if he could get the puck to Laich.

But Glencross’ stretch pass never made it, the pass intercepted by Jesper Fast a mere 15 feet from the point of separation, and what could have been a coronation turned into dejection. Fast took it the other way, and seconds later, the New York Rangers staved off elimination, picking up a 2-1 victory on Ryan McDonagh’s one-timer and forcing Game 6 in the teams’ second-round series.

“It’s disappointing,” Glencross said. “Obviously, you know, they picked a hard pass across the ice out of the air, and came back and unfortunately, got it in the net. We’ll get it the next game.”

A victory would have permitted the Capitals to advance to the Eastern Conference Final for the first time in 17 years, marking their first appearance in the penultimate round since they lost in the Stanley Cup Final in 1998.

Instead, the Rangers won their ninth consecutive elimination game at home, a league record, and demonstrated that they weren’t going to give up without a fight.

“At the end of the day, we’re still breathing,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault, who guided his team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance last year and the Presidents’ Trophy this season. “We’re going to go into Washington on Sunday and give it our best shot.”

Braden Holtby had 41 saves for the Capitals, who again weathered the Rangers’ hot start and finally settled into their game midway through the first period. Glencross, a trade deadline acquisition who was scratched for three games during the first-round series against the New York Islanders, scored his first career playoff goal at 10:54 of the third period by scooping his own rebound on a breakaway over Henrik Lundqvist.

The Rangers erased that lead a little over seven minutes later, when Chris Kreider glanced a wrister off Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik’s left heel just as Lundqvist was leaving the ice. The goal, his third of the playoffs and second of the series, sent the Madison Square Garden crowd into a frenzy, setting the tone for a frenetic extra period that ended with Glencross’s gaffe.

After spotting Laich jetting down the right side near the Capitals’ bench, Glencross tried to connect with his linemate one a stretch pass that would have left him alone with Lundqvist and heading into the attacking zone. Instead, Fast broke up the pass, took it the other way, turned at the right half-wall and dished the puck to Derek Stepan, who was charging into the left circle.

Stepan glided to the dot, and Glencross, trying to make up for the mistake, laid out to block the shot. The Rangers’ center waited out the block and instead dropped the puck for McDonagh, who fired at the net. The shot glanced off Capitals defenseman Tim Gleason’s right leg and behind Holtby; Gleason, stunned, immediately dropped his stick, while Glencross, still sprawled out on the ice with the net to his left, lifted his stick straight above his head and hammered it down into the ice.

“I kind of lost it a bit with the bodies in front,” Holtby said. “Saw that he dropped it back, and I don’t even know where it went. I heard it hit a stick and that was it. No clue where it went.”

The Capitals thought they had their first goal earlier in the game, when, at 17:51 of the second period, Matt Niskanen’s slap shot from the right point deflected off Joel Ward’s shoulder and into the net.

Officials struck down the goal, however, ruling that Ward, who was in contact with Lundqvist, had prevented the goaltender from making a play on the puck.

“[They] just said there was incidental contact,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “We felt, obviously, that he was pushed in. You know, they made the call, and that was it. You just deal with it and move on. On that one, we felt two things — Lundqvist came out, outside the blue, and engaged on it a little bit, and then Ward was pushed in.”

Glencross’ goal, then, would actually get the Capitals on the board, the result of a fortuitous effort on the breakaway. Tom Wilson broke up a pass that sent the puck toward Niskanen, who then spotted Glencross streaking through center ice and delivered a pass that landed right on the winger’s stick.

The initial effort hit the top of Lundqvist’s pads, but Glencross stuck with it, stopping at the crease and lifting the rebound up over the goaltender. Back in the playoffs for the first time in six years, the goal would have been restitution for Glencross, who was traded by the Calgary Flames on March 1 and scored four goals in seven games with his new team before his production fizzled.

“That’s hockey,” Glencross said. “Unfortunately, we had a lead with five minutes left, and we had to seal it up. When it comes into overtime, it’s a matter of a game of mistakes, and they got it.”

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