Trend of bad penalties continues at Verizon Center
It was a lost weekend for the Capitals, who in a lockout-shortened NHL season have limited time to recover from such setbacks.
Hoping to rebound from a frustrating road loss Saturday afternoon, Washington instead endured another one at home against the New York Rangers. A pair of second-period penalties whistled against star winger Alex Ovechkin on the same play led to a pair of goals against in just 41 seconds. That spelled the difference in an eventual 4-1 loss to the Rangers at Verizon Center.
And so on an afternoon when the Caps (10-13-1, 21 points) welcomed back forward Marcus Johansson (concussion) for the first time since Feb. 7 and defenseman Steve Oleksy gave them an early lead with his first NHL goal, the end result was simply stalled momentum. And that on the heels of a 5-2 loss at the New York Islanders on Saturday in a game had been tied 2-2 in the third period before a rash of penalties cost Washington.
"This weekend's a bit of a step back, but I think you can still see our game where we're playing a lot better," forward Eric Fehr said. "I definitely felt like we gave away a few points this weekend. Especially [Saturday] on the Island -- tied with 10 minutes left on the road, you got to close that one out and at least get a point."
Midway through the second period, Ovechkin was called for a trip on New York forward Ryan Callahan and -- during that delayed penalty while the Rangers maintained possession -- he also held defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Brian Boyle scored on the delayed call.
And on the ensuing power play for the holding call, Callahan tipped home a shot by Rick Nash. That gave New York a 3-1 lead at 11:34 of the second period and led to the departure of Caps goalie Braden Holtby, who allowed three goals on 19 shots.
"It shows how dependent this league is with the power play, how games are changed with a result of special teams," forward Troy Brouwer said. "The nights that we're out-chancing them with power plays, that's the nights that we're winning. When we're parading to the box all the time we don't have a hope."
Several of Washington's players and coach Adam Oates disputed the second penalty call on Ovechkin -- the hold of McDonagh. But coming one day after four-minute penalties to both forward Mike Ribeiro and defenseman Jeff Schultz in the third period helped lead to that loss to the Islanders, Oates admitted his team needs to handle questionable calls better.
"You can't let it get to you," Oates said. "Obviously I respect it's the heat of the moment. But we got to be professional. It happens to everybody. It's not just us. It happens to every team."
The Caps had a chance to close the gap late in the second period and early in the third period. They were on the power play for 3:29 straight, including 31 seconds of a five-on-three advantage, and just couldn't convert despite six shots on Rangers goalie Martin Biron during that stretch. The game stayed 3-1 until Brad Richards knocked home a rebound for New York with 1:12 left in the game.
"It wasn't what we wanted, obviously. I didn't bring to the table what I should've in order to at least get a split on the weekend," Holtby said. "But we'll go over it. We'll learn from it. It's frustrating, but we can't dwell on the past now. We've got to keep pushing forward, and we'll get back to work."