ew York, NY (SportsNetwork.com) – Joel Ward scored with just 1.3 seconds left, giving the Washington Capitals a dramatic 2-1 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
The game appeared headed for overtime until the Caps got the puck deep in the right corner. A hit from Nicklas Backstrom on Dan Boyle worked the puck loose and Alex Ovechkin dug it out.
Just as he was about to take it behind the net, Ovechkin passed the puck back to the low right side and Ward one-timed it under the pads of Henrik Lundqvist for the winner.
“I heard Ward screaming really loud so I just wanted to throw the puck out there,” said Ovechkin. “I got lucky because it was a really hard angle, but sometimes luck goes your way.”
Ovechkin scored the other goal and Braden Holtby made 31 saves for the Capitals, who defeated the New York Islanders in seven games in the first round.
Jesper Fast scored for the Rangers, who dispatched the Penguins in five games in the opening round. Lundqvist stopped 27 shots in the loss.
“It’s pretty much like losing in overtime,” said Lundqvist. “You have to put this behind you and move on. Right now it’s going to be tough for the next couple of hours and then you have to start focusing on the next game.”
Game 2 of this best-of-seven series is Saturday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Lundqvist was on his game early as he made a nice glove save on Mike Green’s one-timer with around 12 minutes to play in the first, then stopped an Ovechkin wrister minutes later.
Washington, though, cashed in on its first power play as Ovechkin skated down the left wing and snapped a heavy wrister that went between the legs of Boyle and beat Lundqvist to the left corner with 1:47 to play in the first.
Ovechkin nearly made it 2-0 when he stole a pass in the New York end about seven minutes into the second period and had a clear shot, but he rang the chance off the crossbar.
The Rangers nearly tied the game halfway through the second as a jam in front saw Derick Brassard get an open chance, but he couldn’t get a hold of the puck before a defender swept it away.
Holtby had 21 saves through the first 40 minutes to keep his team in front by a goal.
Ward rang a shot off the left post down low after a turnover in the New York end with just under 10 minutes to play, and the Rangers were able to tie the score with 4:39 left.
Good work in the zone saw Kevin Hayes take the puck to the high slot and throw a turnaround shot on net that hit off a Capitals player, then the leg of Fast and went past Holtby.
This is the fifth postseason meeting between these two clubs since 2009 and ninth overall. Each team has won four times … New York won three of the four games with Washington in the regular season … The Caps were 1-for-2 on the power play, while the Rangers were 0-for-2 … New York defenseman Kevin Klein was back in the lineup for the first time since fracturing his arm off a shot from Ovechkin in a game on March 11.