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Ward's last-second goal sends Capitals past Rangers

by Dan Rosen /

NEW YORK -- Washington Capitals right wing Joel Ward wanted a chance at redemption, because the shot he put off the left post midway through the third period Thursday was beginning to haunt him.

Ward got it, and he delivered in one of the most dramatic ways possible.

Ward scored with 1.3 seconds left in the third period to give the Capitals a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Second Round at Madison Square Garden on Thursday.

"I got a puck in front of the net, hit the post somehow, and I was a little upset about that because the puck was laying there and I knew where I wanted to hit it and I just hit the post," Ward said of his chance that would have put Washington up 2-0 with 10:06 remaining. "When they tied it up, you get that feeling that I had the chance to put it away. I wanted to make a difference, kept telling myself that, and I was fortunate to get a pass from [Alex Ovechkin] and beat the buzzer."

New York forward Jesper Fast scored the tying goal less than six minutes after Ward hit the post, but the Capitals practiced what they have preached all season and continued playing hard and physical until the final whistle.

Ovechkin got the puck in front of the net to Ward, who was unchecked in the slot and was able to put the puck through the legs of Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist.

Washington center Nicklas Backstrom jarred the puck free with a hard hit on New York defenseman Dan Boyle in the corner as Boyle was trying to freeze it until the buzzer sounded to end the period.

"I think the whole building and everyone on the ice was expecting overtime, but you [have to] battle hard until the whistle goes," Backstrom said. "That was huge."

Boyle fell in the corner and appeared to be injured after getting hit by Backstrom. Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he didn't have an update on Boyle.

"I didn't ask," Vigneault said.

Vigneault was screaming from the bench after the hit and goal, and Rangers forward Tanner Glass slashed and cross-checked Capitals forward Curtis Glencross off the faceoff, which was a puck drop that ended the game. That led to a skirmish which resulted in roughing minors for Glass and Capitals forward Tom Wilson.

"I feel like we all just kind of stopped when Boyle went down," said Lundqvist, who made 27 saves. "We lost our focus a little bit and gave up the last chance. The way it happened, I was kind of going to my right and it looked like the puck was going to come out on my right and then when it came out, I was too late to come down. It's a tough one."

New York lost Games 1 and 2 against Washington in the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs but won the series in seven games.

Game 2 is Saturday here (12:30 p.m. ET; NBC, TVA Sports, SN).

"It's going to be tough for the next couple hours, then you start focusing on the next game," Lundqvist said. "It's going to come fast, an early one on Saturday. That's what we are looking for right now, to come back and have a better game and better result."

Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made 31 saves, 29 before he was beaten by Fast after a long shot by Kevin Hayes with 4:39 left in the third period. It was Fast's first Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

"Double deflection, it's hard to really do anything," Holtby said. "Those goals are generated by the other team going to the net, throwing pucks to the net. Goals like that, you just have to tip your hat to the other team and move on."

Washington took a 1-0 lead on Ovechkin's power-play goal at 18:13 of the first period. It was a shot off the rush that went in and out of the net about as quickly as he got it off.

It was Ovechkin's first power-play goal of the playoffs after he scored 25 in the regular season.

"I don't see too many goalies stopping that, to be honest," Ward said. "If you give us all 100 pucks, nobody is going to hit that spot. That's [Ovechkin]. That's what he's been doing. What a beast he is and what a shot."

Ovechkin received the puck on the left side of the neutral zone from defenseman John Carlson and skated in on Boyle, who was backing up. Ovechkin got to the top of the left circle, where he fired a hard, heavy wrist shot that went into the top left corner of the net.

"Probably the gap could have been a little bit tighter there, but they made a good cross play and Ovechkin shot that puck right through [Boyle]," Vigneault said. "It's a tough one."

Washington killed two New York power plays to stay perfect in the playoffs, 16-for-16 in eight games.

Vigneault said the Rangers need to execute better in the offensive zone in Game 2.

"We spent quite a bit of time in their end, had some opportunities to get some better looks than we did, and we're going to have to," he said. "That's going to be one of our focuses for the next game."

New York has 12 goals in six games this postseason; it defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 four times in the first round.

"There's no doubt that one of my focuses is going to get my top players to play at a top level," Vigneault said. "Washington's top players tonight played a real strong game and we're going to need to be better."


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