OTTAWA – Alex Ovechkin was visibly irritated following the Capitals’ 3-1 loss here Monday night not just because his squad fell for the second night in a row but because officials missed a hit that targeted his head.
With 9 minutes 12 seconds gone in the first period, Ovechkin skated the puck out of the corner and up the left side boards. Ottawa’s noted agitator Chris Neil skated in, lining up Ovechkin for a hit and made contact with the star right winger’s head and chin.
Ovechkin shook off the collision but Neil crumpled to the ice and then made his way to the dressing room. Neil didn’t return to the contest, having suffered a lower-body injury, but Ovechkin was upset with officials that the Senators forward didn’t receive a penalty on the play.
“Four guys out there didn’t do their job, maybe they decide to celebrate New Year’s too early right before the game and they didn’t see headshots [from] Neil against me,” Ovechkin said. “He fell on the ice, it was kind of embarrassing to see.”
The referees for Monday’s contest were Jean Hebert, who was along the left boards as well trying to avoid the hit himself and Brad Meier. Mark Wheler and Pierre Racicot were the linesmen.
Ovechkin said he initially thought Neil, who has a reputation of walking the line between acceptable and dangerous hits but has never been suspended, was going for a clean check when he then caught him in the chin.
“I saw him, I felt like he going to hit me shoulder to shoulder I was ready for it but he hit right in my head, right in chin,” Ovechkin said. “I ask referee, ‘Why you didn’t see it?’ He was two feet from me he said ‘I didn’t see it’. The league try to fight through [headshots] but I think the referee didn’t see it at all.
“I step in there, come up from the corner and he just hit me straight up in the chin,” Ovechkin said. “It was, I think, bad hit and I think league have to look at it.”
The NHL’s Department of Player Saftey reviews all hits, but whether they’ll issue any supplementary discipline for this collision remains to be seen. Coach Adam Oates said he hadn’t watched the hit again and declined to comment further.