With just less than six minutes remaining in the third period of Game 3 Monday night at Madison Square Garden, Alex Ovechkin lost a puck battle to Derek Stepan on the left side boards. When the Rangers’ center poked the puck up to the blueline Ryan McDonagh made one swift step to his left to avoid Ovechkin and keep the possession alive.
It was one of several breakdowns in the defensive zone – Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson were all essentially in no-man’s land as Stepan cut through the slot – that led to the Rangers’ game-winning goal in the 4-3 victory over Washington.
Following the win Monday night, McDonagh told Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News that he thought Ovechkin was tired on the play.
“Step’s got pressure, so he didn’t get the puck in my wheelhouse, and I kind of caught it off-center,” McDonagh told the Daily News. “And then I was seeing Ovi standing straight-legged, like he was tired, so I tried to go back against him and keep the play alive. That was great passing by [Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash on the assists], and Stepan goes to the net. That was a huge goal. Huge goal.”
The Capitals did not practice Tuesday. Ovechkin was requested by Washington media members on the off day but he was not made available by the team.
Ovechkin finished the game with 22 minutes 7 seconds of ice time, the most he’s skated in three postseason games this year but there was little consistency to the star winger’s shifts early in the game because of the abundance of penalties taken by Washington.
“I don’t think he was tired,” Coach Adam Oates said. “I think that I didn’t do a good enough job getting him in his rhythm, probably because of penalties.”
In the first 28:32 of Game 3, the Capitals spent 10:08 shorthanded. Ovechkin doesn’t kill penalties so that equated to lengthy spans on the bench.
Oates said it’s his responsibility to make sure Ovechkin’s ice time allows for him to get involved in the game from the outset, but there’s few ways he can make the adjustment when the Capitals are shorthanded repeatedly.
“I doubled him up on the fourth line one time and then after that we were okay,” Oates said citing a 25-second shift Ovechkin took with the fourth line that began with 8:38 left in the second period. “But until then it was hard because every time I was thinking about it we got another penalty. It was tough. After the second period, Mathieu Perreault’s line was having a great game yet I couldn’t get them on the ice. It’s very difficult. We just can’t take too many penalties.”