Just over seven minutes into the third period, San Jose winger Brad Winchester was looking to make an impact as his team — up 3-2 at the time — looked to put the visiting Capitals away. Within a matter of seconds, he laid out a hit on Alex Ovechkin then stepped up against Alexander Semin.
The latter drew a charging penalty, but before play halted Ovechkin confronted Winchester and knocked the Sharks’ forward to the ice.
“He almost got me before that, a couple seconds [before]. Then he got Semin. I was trying to protect my teammate, so I tried,” said Ovechkin, who was asked if he thought Winchester’s hit on Semin was dirty. “No, it was I think good hit, but I think he makes a couple more extra steps. It’s kind of situation when you have step up for the other guys.”
Ovechkin’s defense of his teammate was his most noticeable impact in Washington’s 5-2 loss to the Sharks. He finished with three shots and a minus-3 rating in 21 minutes of ice time on Saturday night and no points for the first time in eight games.
For his retribution against Winchester, Ovechkin received a roughing minor and during the 4-on-4 play that followed Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored to put the Sharks ahead 4-2, 8:51 into the third.
Given that San Jose owns the 29th ranked penalty kill in the league at 75.9 percent, Coach Dale Hunter was asked if he would have rather Ovechkin maintained his temper in order for the Capitals to take advantage of the upcoming power play following the call against Winchester.
“It’s a fine line. It’s like one of those things where you’ve got to stand up for your teammates,” Hunter said. “I don’t know if he knew it was a penalty either, though. It wasn’t fair to him; the guy called it from the red line and he didn’t see it.”