ARLINGTON, Va. --
If the Washington Capitals
fall to the New York Rangers
in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, players and management alike will likely spend the summer wondering how things could have been different had they held on to their 2-1 lead in the final seconds of Game 5.
Beginning with a double-minor high-sticking penalty against Joel Ward
with 22 seconds remaining in regulation, followed by Brad Richards
' tying-goal with 6.6 seconds to play and Marc Staal
's game-winning tally 95 seconds into overtime, the Caps potentially saw their season fall by the wayside in a stunning 3-2 OT loss.
While it is hard to ignore how Game 5 ended and the series of events that led to its conclusion, the Capitals acknowledged Tuesday that their margin of error in the final minute of regulation should never have been so thin.
From the time John Carlson
's power-play goal gave the Capitals a 2-1 lead at 4:20 of the third period, the Caps had ample opportunity to double their lead.
Less than three minutes after Carlson's goal, Nicklas Backstrom
broke free from Dan Girardi
and went one-on-one against Henrik Lundqvist
. Backstrom's backhand attempt grazed off of Lundqvist's shoulder and hit the crossbar.
"I should have scored," Backstrom said Tuesday. "It would have been a different game."
The same can be said if Alexander Semin
and Alex Ovechkin
had converted on a two-on-one with seven minutes to play in regulation. Instead, Girardi got a stick in the way of Semin's pass to Ovechkin, and a shot on goal was never even attempted.
Ditto for a Capitals' three-on-one with just over five minutes to play when the trio of Ovechkin, Brooks Laich
and Marcus Johansson
failed to get a shot on goal. This time it was Staal who got a piece of Laich's intended pass to Ovechkin as Washington gained the blue line.
"We should've executed better," said Johansson, who has gone seven games without a point and is last among Washington forwards with a minus-6 rating in the playoffs.
"[Backstrom's chance] is just bad luck -- it hits the crossbar. But we had a couple two-on-ones and three-on-ones where we should've scored and we didn't even get a shot on net. That's not good enough. We have enough skill and good hockey players to do something better with that. That's something we have to get better at."
The Rangers outshot the Capitals 38-18 in Game 5, and just as the Capitals are left to wonder what could have been had they converted their third period scoring chances, New York likely would have been wondering the same had Washington held on for a 2-1 win.
"They played really well early on, but as the game wore on I thought we got better," Laich said. "They had more shots, but we might have had the better scoring chances. Nicky [hitting the crossbar] and Alex, and Alex had a two-on-one, and we had a three-on-one which I made a bad play on. So we're going to commit to defense again and try and get the offense, and when we do get those chances we'll try to capitalize on it."
"We need to bear down," said Mike Green
, who played a team-high 24:47 in Game 5. "When we get opportunities to score, we've got to put it in the net. I think that would have been the difference in the game… It's just [about] us making the right play. Three-on-one, you should be able to get a shot at least. Their D-men made great plays, but we've got to do better."