NEW YORK — Joel Ward scored with 1.3 seconds left to give the Washington Capitals a 2-1 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night in Game 1 of their second-round series.
Ward drove to the net and tapped Alex Ovechkin’s feed past Henrik Lundqvist. After the goal was confirmed by replay, Ovechkin kissed Ward on the cheek.
Following a mostly ceremonial faceoff, the teams skirmished at centre ice.
Ovechkin opened the scoring on a power play with 1:47 remaining in the first period. Jesper Fast tied it with 4:39 left in the third, tipping Kevin Hayes’ point shot past goalie Braden Holtby.
Holtby made 31 saves, and Lundqvist stopped 27 shots.
Game 2 is Saturday at Madison Square Garden.
The Capitals ended a two-game losing streak against New York in the playoffs. Washington also lost three of the four regular-season meetings with the Rangers.
In the first period, with New York centre Dominic Moore in the penalty box for holding, Ovechkin carried the puck into the offensive zone and whipped a shot past Lundqvist from the top of the left circle for his third goal of the playoffs.
In 27 career playoff games against the Rangers, Ovechkin has 11 goals and 10 assists. He led the NHL during the regular season with 53 goals, 25 power-play goals and 11 game-winning goals.
Ovechkin’s goal was Washington’s first playoff score against Lundqvist in 138:13 dating to Game 6 of the 2013 Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Holtby was aided by some misfires from New York’s shooters.
In the second, Carl Hagelin pushed Fast’s cross-ice feed wide of the net. Later in the period, Derick Brassard couldn’t jam a loose puck in the crease past Holtby. Martin St. Louis’ slap shot from the slot 3:56 into the third was blocked by Karl Alzner.
Lundqvist was strong, too. He made a glove save on Nicklas Backstrom with 5:28 left in the second. In the third, he stopped Brooks Laich’s wraparound attempt and John Carlson off-wing drive.
NOTES: New York right wing Mats Zuccarello is sidelined by an upper-body injury sustained in the first period of the Rangers’ 2-1 overtime victory in Game 5 against Pittsburgh. Without Zuccarello, New York coach Alain Vigneault reconfigured three of his four forward lines. St. Louis was moved up to the top line with Brassard and Rick Nash. Fast replaced St. Louis on the third line with Hayes and Hagelin. James Sheppard was activated for the first time in the playoffs and skated on the fourth line with Moore and Tanner Glass. … Washington was without Eric Fehr. He missed his fifth straight game with an undisclosed injury sustained in the first round against the New York Islanders. Michael Latta was scratched. … This series marks the ninth time New York and Washington have met in the playoffs. They have split the previous eight series, 4-4.
Denis Gorman, The Associated Press