Alex Ovechkin and Joel Ward trailed the official and pointed at the video screen, imploring him to look for a second opinion, because they believed there was no way that goal should have been waved off. The Washington Capitals had appeared to strike first on the New York Rangers in Game 5 when defenseman Matt Niskanen cranked a shot into traffic, three bodies crashed into each other and the puck wound up in the net. According to Coach Barry Trotz, Ward was pushed. According to the Rangers and, ultimately, the officials, incidental contact had kept goaltender Henrik Lundqvist from playing “his position in the crease.”
So ended a prime scoring chance for the Capitals’ top line, which hasn’t scored in three games, though with only seven goals total, that isn’t exactly a significant drought. But they have handled the power-against-power matchups with New York’s top defensive pair well, filling Washington’s top three spots in both even-strength shot attempt percentage and even-strength scoring chance percentage during this series, according to war-on-ice.com.
“That line’s been getting a lot of chances and it’s a matter of just keep getting those chances, hopefully they go in,” forward Jay Beagle said.
Still, three straight games without any points, regardless of the circumstances, is rare territory for Ovechkin. Only once before had Ovechkin endured that long of a stretch, fittingly enough against the Rangers in 2013, when they limited him to one shot on goal in Games 4 and 7, and without a point in the final five games.
Given the chances that line received Friday night, such as when Nicklas Backstrom pelted a puck off Henrik Lundqvist’s mask, or when Lundqvist sprawled onto his side as Ward tried punching back a rebound, the Capitals were unconcerned.
“You can’t keep a guy like that down too long,” forward Jason Chimera said, specifically about Ovechkin. “He’s got his looks, he’s playing hard, you’re not going to stop him. You can limit his looks but he’s going to get those looks and they’re going to go in eventually tomorrow. I have no doubt he’s going to score a big goal tomorrow.”
Even if Chimera’s prediction true, the Capitals aren’t banking on it. Their third line scored the only goals in Games 3 and 4 at Verizon Center, and fourth-liner Curtis Glencross provided their lone score at Madison Square Garden. Both goaltenders have posted save percentages of .942 or better, putting goals at a premium.
“I don’t think we really expect anything with the way these two goalies are playing,” defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “I think the other side would say the same thing. I don’t think either side really cares where it comes from at this point in the series. There can’t be one or two lines relied upon at this point in the season. You’ve got to have everyone contribute.”
Said Trotz: “You’re going to have some matchups where your best players have got to be your best players. Every coach will say that, but you need everybody. You need your third and fourth lines to help win games. You need a power play, you need the penalty kill, you need all those aspects.”