Lundqvist plays great but Rangers still lose

WASHINGTON -- Fielding questions from reporters after the game, Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist slunk back in his stall and answered them with such a quiet strain that he was almost inaudible.

He remained there once the scrum disappeared and lowered his head in his hands, looking like someone that was trying to reserve every last ounce of composure.

The reigning Vezina Trophy winner had every right to be frustrated, holding the Rangers in the game until Mike Ribeiro’s overtime winner gave the Caps a 2-1 win at Verizon Center on Friday.

Washington now leads the series 3-2 with a chance to send the Rangers packing on Sunday in Game 6 in New York.

The Rangers have been in a similar position before -- trailing the Senators 3-2 in last year’s first-round series heading into Game 6 in Ottawa -- and they forced a Game 7.

They’ll have to do it again Sunday at Madison Square Garden.

"We’ll respond fine," captain Ryan Callahan said. "We’ve got a lot of character in here. Last year, we were in the same situation but going on the road. Character or responding isn’t going to be an issue."

Lundqvist was under siege for much of the third period, when the Rangers were outshot 13-4, and faced a number of quality chances in overtime. He made a stunning kick save to rob Mathieu Perreault early in the period; he stopped Alex Ovechkin’s one-timer after that.

But, in a series that has come down to inches, it was Ribeiro’s rebound goal at 9:24 that shoved the Rangers' backs against the wall.

It was Ribeiro's first goal of the series. The second-line center, one of Washington's top contributors during the regular season, was held to a mere assist in the first four games.

"It's obviously a very big goal for him," Capitals coach Adam Oates said. "He's played well in this series and just hasn't gotten one to go his way. Obviously, a huge goal."

Lundqvist turned away each and every one of Alex Ovechkin's team-high nine shots -- Ovechkin has now been held off the score sheet in three straight games -- but couldn't recover in time to seal the post against Ribeiro's only one of the night.

"Frustrating and disappointing, but it’s not over," said Lundqvist, who finished the night with 33 saves. "We have to go home and regroup. It’s going to be a tough couple hours and then you just forget about it."

The result has to be all the more disappointing for the Rangers with the way the team came out in the first period, neutralizing the crowd at Verizon Center less than a minute into the game when Brian Boyle tallied his second of the playoffs for a 1-0 lead at the 53-second mark.

In setting up Boyle in front, center Derick Brassard registered his fifth primary assist and sixth point in the last three games.

But, just as Boyle’s first-period marker gave the Rangers the lead, his ill-advised penalty in the second effectively tied the game.

Shoved by Ribeiro while down on the ice, Boyle got caught retaliating when he took a hearty whack at Ribeiro’s legs and was sent to the box for slashing.

Washington’s Joel Ward cashed in on the resulting power play, knotting the score at 1 at 7:44 of the second period.

"Dumb penalty," Ranger coach John Tortorella said. "And you don't kill those off. It just happens that way in our game. That's a guy that's playing really well for us, but it's a dumb penalty."

The Rangers struggled to get the puck out of their defensive zone in the third, as the Capitals sustained pressure and peppered Lundqvist while the Rangers' forecheck went missing.

"We didn’t have a forecheck, which means our [defense] faced a lot tonight," said alternate captain Brad Richards. "[The Capitals] were coming hard and we didn’t do enough to keep the puck in their end and take the pressure off.”

The Rangers, already without defenseman Marc Staal (eye), lost rugged winger Ryane Clowe -- again.

The 30-year-old forward, who returned in Game 4 after missing four games with what is believed to be a concussion, was forced from the game during the first period after taking a hard hit from Washington’s Jason Chimera. In absorbing the blow, Clowe’s head rattled against the boards. Chimera went off for boarding, while Clowe took one more shift before leaving the game.

He did not return.

So, the Rangers will attempt to hold off the Caps at home, with Washington looking to return the favor on their ouster last spring. The Rangers beat the Capitals in seven games to advance to the Eastern Conference finals in 2012.

"Obviously, it’s going to be their barn, their building, their people. It’s going to be electric," Oates said. "We’ve got to handle the first 10 minutes of the game."

Tortorella wouldn’t even consent to using the E-word in discussing Game 6.

"I don’t consider it an elimination game," he said. "We’re trying to win one game. I’m not going to even use that word."