PITTSBURGH – The Washington Capitals have blistered the Pittsburgh Penguins through two meetings this season, scoring seven total goals and allowing zero. They boast the NHL’s leading goal-scorer and the NHL’s leading assists-tabulator on the same line. They, along with their hosts Tuesday night at Consol Energy Center, are jockeying for position inside a crowded Metropolitan Division, by far the league’s tightest, with four teams separated by five points.
And yet, when forward Alex Ovechkin addressed reporters following the Capitals’ morning skate, the first question came about an accusation made two days ago, clean across the country, by someone in the opposite conference.
After Ovechkin buried the Anaheim Ducks in a 5-3 win beneath his second four-point game of the season, his counterpart captain, Ryan Getzlaf, accused him of diving. Did Ovechkin have an answer?
“No response,” Ovechkin said, before then offering one. “Maybe he’s just jealous. I have hair, he don’t have hair. We can start talking about it all day long. I think it was comment because he was disappointed they lost. Again, it is what it is.
“I don’t think somebody can call me diver in this league, but how I said, maybe he’s disappointed in all the kind of moments that happen.”
The play in question – only so because Getzlaf called out Ovechkin during his postgame availability, pivoting a question about Ovechkin’s offensive success against the Ducks into an answer about “disappointing” actions – began when the latter checked the former from behind inside Washington’s zone. Getzlaf turned around and hacked at Ovechkin, both hands on his stick. Ovechkin fell. A slashing penalty was called. Getzlaf got mad.
Then play continued, two full period’s worth of high-octane, Ovechkin-dominant play. He finished with two goals and two assists. He also drew another slashing penalty on Andrew Cogliano less than four minutes into the third period, and did not fall down.
Coach Barry Trotz, who has several times this season railed against what, in his perception, has been an increase in embellishment across the league, agreed with Ovechkin.
“I’m a big proponent of [eliminating diving],” Trotz said. “I ask our guys not to do it. I watched the tape. I don’t see any of that at all. Actually I see a dominant player that night, a team trying to get him off his game with slashes to the hands all the time and spears behind the legs, trying to get him off. They went head-to-head, he got four points. You try to do that when you’re having a tough night against a guy.”
As did forward Troy Brouwer.
“Whenever you lose a game, you can be upset and everything,” Brouwer said. “Ovi plays hard. He had four points in that game. There’s going to be guys who aren’t going to be happy with him. That means he’s working hard. Guys are having to take penalties and work harder to try to bring him down.”
And finally Pittsburgh forward Sidney Crosby, who didn’t see Getzlaf’s slash, but did not think Ovechkin deserved that label:
“It doesn’t stick out,” Crosby said. “There’s been other plays that stick out, but not diving.”
So, after a minute talking about the penalty, Ovechkin was asked about his rivalry with the Penguins, who he will meet for the 38th regular-season time, with 43 points in those previous 37 games. Thus, the book was closed.