NEW YORK -- Two weeks ago in Boston Joel Ward experienced the ecstasy of scoring a series-clinching overtime goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.
On Monday night he felt the gut-wrenching pain of seeing the Rangers score two power-play goals from the penalty box in a crushing 3-2 loss at Madison Square Garden that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series.
I was just hoping for another chance, said Ward, who was sitting at his locker stall waiting for reporters after Monday nights loss. Theres not much you can do in there. Its definitely a let down. I definitely let the squad down and cost us the game with a terrible play.
The Capitals were 22 seconds away from closing out a 2-1 win when Ward tried to fend off Rangers forward Carl Hagelin on a defensive zone faceoff. As he wheeled around, Ward struck Hagelin in the chin with his stick and was sent off with a double-minor for high sticking.
I was trying to get to my point, Ward said. Hagelin ran a pick on me and I tried to get around the pick and I got my stick under him and that was it.
Its tough, Hendricks said. It was a tough play; hes doing everything he can to box that guy out like he had to. Its unfortunate.
Two faceoffs later, with the Capitals on a 6-on-4 advantage, Brad Richards whacked a loose puck past Capitals goalie Braden Holtby with 6.6 seconds remaining to send the game into overtime.
And when Ward returned to the box for the start overtime period, Marc Staal ripped a shot off Brooks Laich and Matt Hendricks and past Holtby for the game-winner. As fireworks popped and streamers cascaded from the rafters, Ward was the last Rangers skater off the ice.
It definitely stings, he said. It was a hard-fought battle tonight and its tough when you let the team down on a play like that.
While Ward took blame for the loss many of his teammates rallied around him.
We all feel terrible for him, linemate Mike Knuble said. It was the moment they needed and they took advantage of it.
Ironically, Ward drew a hooking penalty on Mike Rupp that led to John Carlsons go-ahead goal earlier in the third period. It was a play that certainly would have been recognized if the Caps had won but was long forgotten in the defeat.
Hes such a great team guy, Troy Brouwer said. Hes been great for us all season long and weve got to try to bail the guy out in that situation.
The Capitals didnt and now face back-to-back must-win games in a series that underwent a seismic shift Monday night.