So close they could taste it, but with one critical faceoff left in the defensive zone, the Capitals lost one battle and then another as Brad Richards eventually poked home the game-tying goal with under seven seconds to play in regulation of Game 5 on Monday night. That was a killer play that grew worse when Marc Staal power a shot past rookie goalie Braden Holtby 95 seconds into overtime. Both goals came on the power play, which had held New York without a shot on its first three man-advantage attempts before cracking under the intense pressure late.
“We felt confident right at the end there. It's tough to be six-on-four there, just throwing pucks at the net,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “I have to watch that one again. But from our point it looked like we had the puck covered and then the next thing we knew it was in the net. It's a real tough pill to swallow with six seconds left. But going before that, we should've iced the game with eight minutes left. We had a breakaway, we had a three-on-one, two two-on-ones and we didn't get a shot off. It's a big mistake by us.”
From his vantage point, Holtby knew that several Rangers were lurking to his right. He made two fine pad stops on Ryan Callahan. But it was Richards who finally came crashing in and somehow poked the puck through several legs – defenseman John Carlson was waiting in the crease for the block - and the Madison Square Garden crowd erupted in joy.
“They got two or three whacks at it into my pad.….I just tried to cover it quick and [Richards] got a stick in there before I could get it,” Holtby said. “One I’d probably like to battle harder with, but that’s ifs and whatnot. It is what it is and we’ll move on.”
The overtime winner by Staal? Well, Holtby never even saw that one. Matt Hendricks lost a draw and then he and Brooks Laich couldn’t get out to the point fast enough to block Staal’s attempt. Artem Anisimov was in front providing a screen so Holtby had no idea if he was in proper position. He couldn’t see Staal. Karl Alzner was just to the right of Anisimov, but not blocking Holtby’s view himself. The goalie didn’t drop into position until after the crack of the puck off Staal’s stick and it was past him in a flash.
“That’s a good question, I didn’t see a thing,” Holtby said. “So, whether I had a lane or not I’d have to look at it on video to see if I could have done a better job seeing around the traffic. That’s what happens when we play a style where we block a lot of shots sometimes those go in. It just happened in overtime today.”
And just like that a penalty kill that had been flawless through two periods found itself faltering in the end. Of course, the 6-on-4 with a roaring crowd, the goalie pulled and one last chance is a different animal. But still – fresh ice and a rested team to start overtime is no picnic, either.
“It’s a tough penalty for us to be dealt there at the end. That was the break they needed and they capitalized on it,” Mike Knuble said. “I’m sure, obviously, the excitement coming into the overtime with the two minutes power play, fresh ice on the clock. I thought we were on our way to killing it off and they just win the draw, a play through traffic there – a good shot through traffic.”
Follow me on Twitter @bmcnally14