(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)


While the Capitals haven’t been happy about the discrepancy in penalties dished out in this series, they know that they could have avoided some of the calls they received in Game 6.

Of the five minors Washington was whistled for before the final buzzer – a melee broke out at the end of regulation that resulted in two players on both sides receiving roughing penalties – two were pure retaliation.

The Capitals were off to a rather solid start when Jack Hillen went off for roughing at 10:01 of the first period – he shoved Ryan Callahan twice after the Rangers’ captain elbowed him. Then in the third period they were trying to mount a comeback when Mike Green cross checked Derek Dorsett in the face after the New York forward slew-footed him.

As frustrated as the Capitals can be at any moment, those are avoidable penalties.

“The ref made proper calls on a bunch of penalties where we did retaliate,” Troy Brouwer said. “He’s gonna make those calls every time.”

Discipline was a major issue for the Capitals early on this year. Washington averaged 4.2 minor penalties and 3.9 penalty kills per game in the first half of the regular season. In the second half those numbers dropped to 3.4 and 3.0, respectively.

It was a concern in Game 3, when the Capitals took six minors within the first 29 minutes of the game. For as familiar as Washington is with the perils of frequent trips to the penalty box, it doesn’t hurt to be reminded about it again, Matt Hendricks said.

“I look it at it kind of like that bird that sits on your shoulder. It’s always chirping in your ear. You need that,” Hendricks said. “It’s one of those aspects of the game, one of the details in the game that always needs to be reiterated, especially in the playoffs, when emotions run high and frustrations run high. We need to be a more disciplined hockey team.”

The penalties cause a variety of problems for the Capitals from robbing them of time to impose their will on New York during 5-on-5 play, take offensive talents like Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro out of the game, tax the energy levels and raise the ice times of everyone who plays shorthanded.

“Any time our top guys aren’t getting the opportunity 5-on-5 it’s hurting our team,” Hendricks said. “Energy guys are spending their energy on the penalty kill instead of the energy on the forecheck and creating, maybe drawing penalties that way.”

Fortunately for Washington, the Rangers’ power play is far from a model of efficiency having gone 2-for-26 in the series. As solid as the Capitals’ penalty kill has been, though, there’s a sense that the team is tempting fate by continuing to spend so much time shorthanded.

The penalty kill is “the only reason why we’ve been able to stick around, I think, in the last few, at least,” Karl Alzner said. “You’ve got to continue that. It’d be nice if we could take a few less.”