Capitals Notebook

Washington Capitals Left Wing Alex Ovechkin Is Cleared to Play After Hit on Sergei Gonchar

Rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov, left, and left wing Alex Ovechkin, right, were good to go for the Capitals last night.
Rookie goalie Simeon Varlamov, left, and left wing Alex Ovechkin, right, were good to go for the Capitals last night. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Katie Carrera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, May 10, 2009

Alex Ovechkin was not disciplined by the NHL for his knee-on-knee collision with Pittsburgh's Sergei Gonchar in the first period of the Penguins' 5-3 win in Game 4. The hit knocked the Penguins' star defenseman out of the game with a right knee injury, and he was scratched for last night's Game 5.

Gonchar's agent, J.P. Barry, told TSN the injury will sideline the 35-year-old alternate captain for several weeks. Barry also responded to the lack of any punishment from the league.

"We now have Exhibit A of the extreme double standard that exists in the NHL's approach to discipline," Barry told TSN. "Alex clearly cuts back with his knee after missing his check with devastating results. But of course, because it's Alex, it's all Sergei's fault.

"It was an extremely negligent hit, and if anyone else in this league does the same we all know they will face serious discipline,'' Barry continued. "Part of being 'great' means playing with respect.''

Yesterday at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Ovechkin reiterated that the injury was an accident. Ovechkin said he was trying to shoulder-check Gonchar, but when the defenseman moved to try and avoid the hit, it resulted in the players' right knees colliding.

The reigning MVP said he tried to get word to Gonchar that the hit was not intentional.

"I tell a couple guys -- [Bill] Guerin, [Mark] Eaton -- it was accidental," Ovechkin said. "I didn't try hurt him."

With Gonchar unable to play, Pittsburgh recalled defenseman Alex Goligoski, who appeared in 45 regular season games with the Penguins, from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. Gonchar's absence will have an immediate impact on the Penguins, though.

A key puck-mover, Gonchar provided a steadying presence while leading the Penguins in total ice time (25 minutes 6 seconds per game) and power-play ice time (6:53) through 10 games in the playoffs.

Another Hit to Remember

With the focus on Ovechkin's hit, Coach Bruce Boudreau suggested that a hit from Pittsburgh's Brooks Orpik on Alexander Semin in Game 4 deserved more attention.

"I'd be more concerned with Orpik cross-checking Semin in the back of the head," Boudreau said. "Even though the injury didn't take place, that was way more vicious."

Asked if he felt the Penguins were targeting Semin, Boudreau said: "I'm sure they're telling [Orpik]: 'He'll take retaliation penalties. Go after him.' All you have to do is watch the regular season and you know that's going to happen. I thought Alex did a great job with self restraint" in Game 4.

Semin is tied for the most minor penalties by a Capital in the postseason with eight, including three in this series.

More Varlamov

Simeon Varlamov earned his 11th straight start in the playoffs last night at Verizon Center. Despite allowing five goals in Game 4, Boudreau didn't doubt that the rookie netminder would be able to bounce back from a lackluster performance.

"It was a hiccup and he had a bad game," Boudreau said. "My experience with him, during the regular season he had one bad game [at] home against Buffalo when they scored five goals on him. . . . We came back with him in Atlanta and he was incredible. You've seen enough of him where you must believe, like I do, that he's a very competitive individual. I think he'll rise to the fore."

Varlamov did indeed rebound, stopping 38 of 42 shots in a 4-3 overtime loss in Game 5, but his stats have now risen to 2.15 goals against average and a .927 save percentage.

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