The puck apparently carried out over the glass and curved back into the Capitals’ bench. That delay-of-game penalty at 3:09 of the third period started a downward spiral that led to another blown third-period lead and a 3-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils on Thursday at Verizon Center.

Jay Beagle was the culprit. Except he didn’t want to leave the ice. The ensuing faceoff on the penalty kill was set for the right circle and he is a right-handed shot. Plus, he’s one of the team’s key penalty killers. He wanted to be out there. So Beagle did the smart thing: He hid and hoped to escape in the confusion. That’s exactly what happened. First, the referees tried to send Mathieu Perreault to the penalty box and then sent defenseman Tomas Kundratek there instead.

“I don’t know. I think they were just so confused,” Beagle said. “And I was trying to hide, obviously, because it was a faceoff on my side. I should have been the one in the box. I just tried to hide from them and they didn’t put me in so…”

The referees and linesmen were also arguing about whether the puck cleared the glass first and curved into the bench or sailed directly into it, which wouldn’t have been a penalty at all. That call went against Washington.

“I had no clue. One ref and one linesman said he had no clue,” Beagle said. “The other linesman said he was pretty sure. They were kind of arguing about that. I could hear them arguing by the faceoff circle.”

Added coach Adam Oates: “It went over the glass before it went into the bench. So that’s the rule. They saw it that way. I can’t say that I saw the puck go over the glass at that time, but one of the linesmen called it. He said he saw it.”

The Caps survived the ensuing 4-on-3, 5-on-3 and 5-on-4. But with its skill players plastered to the bench and its penalty killers’ energy reserves running dry it wasn’t exactly the best use of their time. Nicklas Backstrom’s coincidental minor for boarding needed to finish seven more seconds before the clock would even start to run on Kundratek’s call – or Beagle’s, really. The Caps killed seven seconds of a 4-on-3, 1:39 of a 5-on-3 advantage – New Jersey had scored four times that way already this season – and 21 seconds more of a 5-on-4.

It was a big boost and the crowd was roaring. But Alex Ovechkin was whistled for a trip 96 seconds later. Just 26 seconds after he returned to the ice Andrei Loktionov scored an even-strength goal. Hard to argue all those penalties didn’t play into that. Then defenseman John Erskine took a hook 40 seconds after that and less than minute later defenseman Tom Poti was called for interference. Kovalchuk’s goal at 11:40 of the third period came with 19 seconds left on that 5-on-3. It was

“It’s hard because you got guys that are sitting on the bench not going because you got your PK guys,” Perreault said. “And it just kills your momentum. Like we were playing a good game, we were up 2-1, we were right where we wanted to be at and all of a sudden the penalties just took us out of it.”

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