The Capitals were already fired up about the officiating in Saturday afternoon’s 5-2 loss at the New York Islanders because they believed referees missed calls on a high-stick against Alex Ovechkin and when Matt Hendricks was hauled down.
So when Mike Ribeiro clipped John Tavares’s face with a high-stick and received a minor penalty, it was tough to swallow. Ribeiro, who has a reputation for mouthing off to officials, voiced his complaint to the referees, swung his stick at the boards and received an additional minor penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
It marked Ribeiro’s third unsportsmanlike penalty this season, the sixth for the Capitals overall.
“It’s very frustrating at times. Not to make excuses but when a play happens in the middle of the ice how do four guys miss it?” Coach Adam Oates said. “A guy gets a stick under his shield and his helmet gets half turned around and we’re frustrated. Then Hendy gets hauled down and then Mike gets a ticky-tack foul, which was a penalty, but after what we just witnessed it’s tough. It’s difficult. It’s part of the game. Like I said yesterday, Mike knows better. He can’t do that.”
While players know there’s a line they shouldn’t cross when it comes to yapping at referees, Ovechkin said he wants to see more respect from the on-ice officials, whom he believes have been a little too quick to call unsportsmanlike penalties if any player remotely questions their judgment.
“Of course some refs don’t like some personalities on our team, but anyway, you have to respect us. We’re emotional, we’re in the game,” Ovechkin said Sunday morning before the Capitals hosted the Rangers. “When we say something bad to linesmen or bad to referees, we can’t give them two minutes when they yell at me or they yell at coaches or yell somebody. It’s kind of position when they have to give us a break.
“If we’re over [the] top of our yelling or screaming, yeah, of course you have to give us two or five or 10, it’s their call,” Ovechkin continued. “Not like if we say one word to them like you’re gonna get two minutes right away….I think the league and the [NHLPA] have to look at it and make a changes.”
Jason Chimera, Troy Brouwer and Joey Crabb have received unsportsmanlike-conduct minors this season along with Ribeiro, who earned unsportsmanlike-conduct minors along with 10-minute misconducts for his comments to officials on Jan. 22 against Winnipeg and on Feb. 27 at Philadelphia. The veteran center said previously that he didn’t feel as though players could even ask officials for an explanation of a call they didn’t agree with.
Ovechkin agreed, stating: “Right now you can’t say nothing to [referees]. Even if you’re captain, even if you’re not a captain, even if you’re the fan, you’re still gonna get two minutes.”
Regardless of the reasons, though, it’s an extra two minutes in the penalty box that the Capitals can – and arguably should – avoid. On Saturday the extra penalty to Ribeiro proved costly when Tavares scored to give the Islanders the lead en route to the win.
“We can’t make excuses for those types of penalties. The officials are gonna call what they’re gonna call,” Matt Hendricks said. “You can try and press their buttons, but sooner or later it’s gonna come back and bite you, which it did last night. We gotta take the blame on those.”