(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Throughout the postseason the penalty kill has been a source of strength for the Capitals, but even the strongest components can falter. Late in Game 5 against the Rangers Monday night, the unit yielded twice at the worst possible time.

Heading into the third period, Washington’s penalty killers had thwarted 14 of 16 Rangers power plays in the series. In New York’s first three tries on the man advantage in Game 5, it was held without a single shot on goal.

Joel Ward’s double-minor for high sticking created another shorthanded situation for the Capitals that was intensified by New York having pulled goaltender Henrik Lundqvist for an extra attacker. It was a 6-on-4 for the Rangers, whose feverous push to force overtime wouldn’t be denied.

Brad Richards tied the game on the first half of that power play with 6.6 seconds left in regulation.

“We felt confident right at the end there. It’s tough to be six-on-four there, [New York] just throwing pucks at the net,” Karl Alzner said following the game. “I have to watch that one again. But from our point it looked like we had the puck covered and then the next thing we knew it was in the net. It’s a real tough pill to swallow with six seconds left.”

Said Braden Holtby: “They got two or three whacks at it into my pad.….I just tried to cover it quick and [Richards] got a stick in there before I could get it. One I’d probably like to battle harder with, but that’s ifs and whatnot. It is what it is and we’ll move on.”

At the start of overtime it was a regular Rangers power play, 5-on-4, for 1 minute 54 seconds, and the mindset of the Washington penalty killers was to stave off the advantage, quell the growing momentum in Madison Square Garden and focus on playing a regular overtime. They didn’t get the chance, though.

John Mitchell beat Matt Hendricks on an offensive zone faceoff setting up Marc Staal’s point shot that glanced off Brooks Laich’s stick and past a screened Holtby.

“It’s a tough penalty for us to be dealt there at the end,” Mike Knuble said. “That was the break they needed and they capitalized on it. I’m sure obviously the excitement coming into the overtime with the two minutes power play, fresh ice….I thought we were on our way to killing it off and they just win the draw, a play through traffic there – a good shot through traffic.”

The loss marked the first time since March 13 that the Capitals had allowed two power-play goals in a single game. Even with the unfortunate blip, though, Washington’s penalty kill has a 85 percent success rate (34 for 40) in the postseason and the unit – like the team as a whole – will need to bounce back.

More on Game 5:
Ovechkin held without a shot in Game 5
Game 5 was bad, but was it the worst?
— Steinberg: Worst loss ever?
— Greenberg: Caps are down, but not out.
Wise: Caps don’t know how to seize success
Graphic: Capitals 2012 playoffs, shot by shot