PITTSBURGH — After the Washington Capitals fell into a three-games-to-one postseason deficit against the Penguins for a second straight season, team captain Alex Ovechkin pointed a finger at himself.
“I didn’t play my game at all tonight,” Ovechkin said. “I think, me personally, I have to play much better.”
In the Capitals’ 3-2 loss in Game 4, Ovechkin took two of the team’s six offensive-zone penalties, and he had two shots on goal with two shots blocked in 19:37. His second penalty negated a power play early in the third period when Washington was down a goal. In four power-play opportunities, the Capitals had five shots on goal but failed to score.
“I think I didn’t control the puck well,” Ovechkin said. “You know, I make stupid decisions. Unfortunately, it happened, and we have to forget it and we have to move forward. Every game right now for us is [a Game 7], so we have to win three to move forward. I’m pretty sure we’re ready for that.”
In 10 games this postseason, Ovechkin has four goals and three assists, and he’s averaged nearly a point per game in the playoffs over his career. The regular season was one of reduced production for Ovechkin, who scored 33 goals, a significant decline from the 50 he tallied during the 2015-16 season. Capitals Coach Barry Trotz had limited Ovechkin and other top players’ ice time during the regular season as a way to keep them fresh for the postseason.
That may be why Trotz was especially disappointed with his stars Wednesday night. With Penguins captain Sidney Crosby sidelined with a concussion, the Capitals squandered an opportunity to tie the series because they couldn’t cash in on enough of their opportunities. Washington boasted a 38-18 shot advantage over Pittsburgh.
“Our top guys tonight, I thought, weren’t as good as they needed to be,” Trotz said. “I didn’t think our top guys really stepped up today, which was very unfortunate for us.”
Asked specifically about Ovechkin’s play, Trotz didn’t call out his captain. “I would say our top players didn’t play as well as they need to be,” Trotz reiterated. “They need to be top players and step up right now.”
Center Nicklas Backstrom finished the game without a shot on goal and was beaten twice. T.J. Oshie had an assist, but with less than two minutes left in the game, he was called for high-sticking in the offensive zone, a penalty that prevented the Capitals from using a six-on-five in an attempt to tie the game.
“He working hard like everybody,” Evgeny Kuznetsov said of Ovechkin. “Sometimes, he can’t score, but he will score next game for sure. I trust him, and he’s big man. He’ll score for sure.”