NEW YORK -- Joel Ward was sitting in the penalty box as the goal horn blared not once, but twice inside Madison Square Garden late Monday night.
Right Wing - WSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 5
SOG: 12 | +/-: 3
Soon after the second horn was finished and the celebratory crowd was making its way out onto the streets of Manhattan, Ward was sitting at his locker stall with the media approaching.
He had a look of despair painted all over his face.
Ward, the overtime hero of Game 7 in Boston less than two weeks ago, was now the overtime goat of the pivotal Game 5 against the New York Rangers.
He smacked Carl Hagelin with a high stick that drew blood with 21.3 seconds left in regulation Monday, and the Rangers took advantage by scoring once before the end of regulation (Brad Richards on a 6-on-4 with Henrik Lundqvist in the box) and then 1:35 into overtime (Marc Staal on a slap shot that was deflected by Brooks Laich) to steal a 3-2 victory from the Capitals and a 3-2 series lead with Game 6 set for Wednesday at Verizon Center.
Between the sighs and the stutters of trying to get through his media session, Ward took the blame for what was 6.6 seconds away from being a 2-1 Washington win.
"I definitely let the squad down, and it cost us a game with a terrible play," Ward said. "I was just kind of hoping for another chance to redeem myself."
Ward never got one, but as hard as he was on himself, his teammates and coach were quick to absolve him of the blame.
"It was an accident," Caps coach Dale Hunter said of Ward's ill-timed double-minor high-sticking penalty. "It was a high stick. That's the breaks of the hockey game. They got a break."
"You can't say it was his fault," Washington captain Alex Ovechkin said in defense of Ward. "We all lost the game. We win as a group and lose as a group."
Try telling that to Ward.
"It's a little mentally disturbing for sure right now," Ward said. "It's tough to be in that position when you're letting the team down."
Ward said all he was trying to do was get to his position after he blocked a shot by Dan Girardi.
"I kind of saw that he was running a pick on me, so I just tried to get around the pick," Ward said, speaking of Hagelin. "I got my stick under him and that was it."
He didn't play again. Ward will have to wait for Game 6 Wednesday to seek his redemption.
"It definitely (stinks) to let the team down," Ward said.