NEW YORK Shocking. Devastating. Crushing.
Use your own adjective.
The Capitals were 6.6 seconds away from another gutsy one-goal victory when the walls caved in and changed the complexion of the Eastern Conference Semifnals.
With Joel Ward serving a four-minute high-sticking major, Brad Richards sent the game into overtime with a goal with 6.6 seconds left in regulation and Marc Staal won it just 1:35 into overtime to give the Rangers a 3-2 victory on front of a wild crowd at Madison Square Garden.
The Rangers now hold a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, which resumes Wednesday night at the Verizon Center.
Little-used center John Mitchell beat Matt Hendricks on a faceoff and won the puck back to Staal. With Brooks Laich and Hendricks converging on him Staal blasted a shot the deflected of Laich or Hendricks or both and sailed past Braden Holtbys outstretched glove before he saw it.
The Capitals were 6.6 seconds away from a 2-1 regulation win when Richards sent the game into overtime with a killer power-play goal.
It all started with 22 seconds remaining when Ward took a four-minute high sticking penalty on Carl Hagelin off a defensive zone draw. The Rangers already had pulled goalie Henrik Lundqvist and now had a 6-on-4 advantage.
On the ensuing faceoff, Richards beat Jay Beagle on the draw and defenseman Michal Del Zotto threaded a shot in on Braden Holtby. Ryan Callahan jabbed twice at the puck to keep it alive and just as Holtby was about to cover the puck Richards whacked it through him and off the right cross bar for his fourth goal of the playoffs.
Defenseman John Carlson scored a power-play goal 4 minutes, 20 seconds into the third period to give the Caps a 2-1 lead.
Carlsons goal came after Rangers enforcer Mike Rupp was sent to the penalty box for hooking Joel Ward on an offensive rush with Mike Knuble.
Carlson rotated along the blue line until Wideman spotted him in the high slot. Carlson blasted a rising slap shot that appeared to change direction when it deflected off the stick of defenseman Dan Girardi and into the top right corner of the net.
The Capitals went into hunker down mode after that as Matt Hendricks, Nick Backstrom, Joel Ward, Jay Beagle Karl Alzner, and John Carlson took turns blocking shots in front of Holtby until Ward took his penalty.
Despite being outshot 26-10 and thoroughly outplayed in the opening 40 minutes the Capitals managed to go into the third period in a 1-1 tie because of their penalty killing and Brooks Laichs wrists.
It was the ninth time in 13 playoff games the Caps entered the final period of regulation with the score tied.
The Caps penalty killers held the Rangers power play without a shot on three occasions as Roman Hamrlik high-sticking, Mike Green slashing and John Carlson delay of game took turns going to the sin bin.
The Caps fared no better on the man-advantage, failing to convert penalties to Michael Del Zotto in the first and second periods.
Laich kept the Capitals afloat when he turned a Brian Boyle turnover into his second goal of the playoffs and his first since Game 3 of the opening round against the Bruins.
Boyle couldnt handle the puck at his skates and Alex Ovechkin found Laich in the slot for a wrister inside the right post. It wad the fourth assist of the playoffs for Ovechkin, who in pre-game warmups took a scary spill into the boards when he was tripped up by backup goalie Michal Neuvirth.
The Capitals looked loose during the morning skate and played loose in their own zone in the opening period, allowing the Rangers to grab a 1-0 lead while outshooting them 17-4.
Anything that could go wrong for the Capitals did in that opening period. They were outhit 15-8 and beaten to almost every loose puck. Defenseman Dennis Wideman, who entered the game tied with partner Jeff Schultz with a team-worst minus-7, was victimized on the Rangers first goal, dipping both blue liners to minus-8.
Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman held the puck long enough to get around a sliding Matt Hendricks before snapping a bad-angle wrist shot from the right boards through the legs of Wideman and Braden Holtby for a 1-0 lead.
The puck appeared to tick off the inside of Widemans shin pad and although Holtby probably should have stopped the shot it was hard to blame the rookie, who was asked to stop 16 other shots in the period.