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With seven agonizing seconds to go, Capitals fall apart

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Sports,NHL,Capitals,Brian McNally

Rangers tie Game 5 late, win in overtime to take control of series

NEW YORK -- Seven seconds from victory, the Capitals instead saw their season pushed to the brink in a crushing 3-2 overtime loss.

New York Rangers forward Brad Richards poked home a 6-on-4 power-play shot with the clock winding down in regulation of Game 5 of this Eastern Conference semifinal series on Monday night. Just like that Madison Square Garden was in a frenzy. It took just 95 seconds of overtime for Rangers defenseman Marc Staal to score the game-winning goal and extend the party.

That sent the series back to the District with New York in position to eliminate Washington in Game 6, which is set for Wednesday night at a time to be announced. The Rangers now lead the series 3-2.

John Carlson's power-play goal in the third period put the Caps ahead 2-1. But with forward Joel Ward off the ice for a four-minute high-sticking call in the final minute, Richards poked home the game-tying goal from the left doorstep with just seven seconds remaining to tie the game again. That set up Staal's heroics in overtime.

Ward, the hero of Game 7 of the first-round series against Boston, was whistled for a high stick on Rangers forward Carl Hagelin with just 22 seconds left to play.

"Right now it definitely stings. It was a hard-fought battle for us tonight," Ward said. "It's tough when you let the team down on a play like that."

New York outshot the Caps 17-4 and gave up only a handful of quality chances against in the first period. There were turnovers galore and a shaky goal allowed by rookie goalie Braden Holtby at 10:44. Anton Stralman took advantage of a sliding Matt Hendricks near the blueline, deking around the Caps forward. He took a bad-angle shot from the left boards, and the puck slid through defenseman Dennis Wideman's legs and then between Holtby's pads. There was plenty of other traffic around the crease, too. That score put the Rangers up 1-0.

But the lead wouldn't last. A broken play tied the score when Brooks Laich fired home a shot from the slot. The Caps won a faceoff, and Troy Brouwer kept the puck in the offensive zone. Laich held on to the puck as Dan Girardi hit him, and Alex Ovechkin's pass clicked off Brian Boyle's stick and landed at Laich's feet. He tied the score with a wrist shot past Henrik Lundqvist.

For the ninth time in 12 playoff games, Washington was tied entering the third period. But for the fourth time this postseason, it lost a game in overtime.

"It was frustrating, especially when you're seven seconds from having the lead in the series," veteran winger Mike Knuble said. "Things swung pretty quickly out there."

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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