With 48 games in 99 days, there’s not a lot of time to digest what happened in any single contest. So as we churn through this compressed Capitals season, I’ll be rounding up my thoughts and analysis of each game here. If you missed them, check out the game story from the 4-1 loss to the Rangers and more on Braden Holtby being pulled from the game after allowing three goals.
>> Safe to say Sunday afternoon was not one of Alex Ovechkin’s finest outings. He was directly involved in a play that paved the way to the Rangers’ first goal and then was called for a pair of delayed penalties that resulted in two more tallies for the visiting team at Verizon Center.
Let’s start a little after 11 minutes into the first period, when Ovechkin appeared to line up Derek Stepan for an open-ice, neutral-zone hit. Stepan released the puck and moved slightly out of Ovechkin’s path, and the Caps winger never made contact.
“I saw Ribs and Hendy go back, he kind of look [to see] where’s the puck,” Ovechkin said. “I try to make a hit on him but he saw me at the last second and he moved.”
More important than not making the hit, though, was that Ovechkin skated past Stepan and made no attempt to get back into the play as a 3-on-2 developed for the Rangers. Instead, Ovechkin glided back into the Washington zone and watched the following play unfold.
Mike Ribeiro was hustling to get back in the play but Stepan regained control of the puck, swept wide to the left side and then banked a shot off Braden Holtby’s skate in from behind the net to make it 1-1.
Coach Adam Oates was asked if Ovechkin’s action was the correct play.
“No. It’s not,” Oates said. “We have tracking rules, and I think he was gonna hit him and he let him go, and because of that we got a little out of position.”
Whether he would have been able to prevent Stepan’s goal — which Holtby should have stopped — is unknown, but at the very least, Ovechkin could have provided support for his teammates.
>> On to the second period, when Ovechkin was whistled for a pair of delayed penalties in a span of about five seconds on one shift. The first was for tripping Ryan Callahan in the slot, a call that both Oates and Ovechkin acknowledged the winger was guilty on.
Both coach and captain questioned the second call, though, which was for holding Ryan McDonagh as he brought the puck through the left circle. But it’s pretty easy to see Ovechkin wrapped his arm and stick around McDonagh, impeding his progress.
“To be honest with you I don’t know. I know I trip him first one because I lost the position, so I play it like it’s going to be pass to him,” Ovechkin said. “I don’t know where he find the second one; it cost us the game.”
Said Oates: “They had the original call on Alex, and the guy – the outside ref had the original call on Alex, which is the one I saw. And they said that he held a guy 10 seconds later, which, obviously, watching the tape, he didn’t.”
Brian Boyle’s goal at 10:53 of the second came during the delayed penalties, but only wiped out the would-be tripping call on Ovechkin. To answer a few questions from yesterday, goals scored on delayed penalties are marked as even strength and that penalty never makes it to the final scoresheet.
Ovechkin went to the penalty box to serve the holding minor and it took a grand total of 41 seconds for the Rangers to score again. Rick Nash’s shot went off Callahan in front to make it 3-1, a two-goal deficit that the Capitals never recovered from. And all of this came a day after Washington bemoaned the impact penalties had on the 5-2 loss at the Islanders.
>> Marcus Johansson made his return to the lineup Sunday after missing 12 games with a concussion and came away with an assist on the Capitals’ only goal and 15:12 of ice time.
“I felt good. This is the best I’ve felt all year, so it was nice to be out there again,” Johansson said. “It’s good to be back. I’ve been waiting a long time to get back out and play again.”
Johansson, 22, has declined to say when he began experiencing concussion symptoms but there’s been speculation that perhaps it occurred after his big open-ice collision with Ovechkin on Jan. 15 during training camp. After the game Sunday, Oates wondered the same thing, even though Johansson previously denied any connection between that collision and Johansson’s injury.
“I thought he was one of our best players,” Johansson said. “That looked like — maybe that hit in training camp really did affect him, because that looked like what I saw on tape.”
>> Prior to the game, Oates said a few players were banged up, but when asked afterward why he scratched Mathieu Perreault and Wojtek Wolski, the coach didn’t mention their health.
“Play,” Oates said. “Play and the team we’re playing. Lot of factors [are] involved.”
Perreault played in 12 straight games before sitting out against the Rangers while Wolski had sat out as a healthy scratch on March 2 at Winnipeg but played in three games since.
>> In the four games he’s played since being signed and recalled by the Capitals on March 4, Steve Oleksy has four points. He recorded his first career NHL goal Sunday early in the first period, when he beat Rangers netminder Martin Biron with a shot from the point.
“I don’t score a lot of goals, so every one’s nice, and to get that one out of the way helps a lot,” Oleksy said. “But at the end of the day, we were looking for two points and we were unable to get that.”