The Caps aren’t letting panic sink in after their 3-2 loss to the Rangers in Game 3, but if there is one area they universally acknowledged needs improvement it is taking fewer penalties.
The Caps took eight minors Sunday, and even if a few were on tight calls, they need to put themselves in a better position to avoid getting whistled.
“We took way too many penalties. We definitely can’t be doing that,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “You can understand the hard-working penalties but we took a few that were from behind, hooking and stuff like that and you just can’t do that.”
The Rangers have tried to get under the Caps’ skin, but five of the Caps’ eight penalties Sunday came when the penalized player was either out of position or a step behind the play.
Matt Hendricks took an interference penalty, Mike Green and Alex Ovechkin each took a hooking minor, Scott Hannan got called for holding and Nicklas Backstrom got whistled for a trip.
“We just need to be more conscious of it,” Hendricks said. “Obviously they’re calling things a little bit tighter now in the playoffs than they have in the regular season.”
The frequent minors made it difficult for the Caps to establish any sort of rhythm, and wore down their top penalty killers who had to spend more time on the ice.
In a series where the Caps have a significantly more talented team, they need to maximize the amount of time they are at full strength.
The Rangers outshot the Caps for the second straight game Sunday, and 10 of their 35 shots in Game 3 came on the power play.
“We’ve just got to be smarter. It gets guys out of the game and it gets rhythm out of the game,” forward Jason Chimera said. “As the game went on there was really no rhythm to it and our physical guys couldn’t get out there. [Forward Matt Bradley] and those guys couldn’t play as much as they did. They create a lot of tempo for us. You can’t take dumb penalties. It’s the playoffs and you’ve got to skate to catch up with a guy instead of using your stick.”