Penalties have been an issue all season for the Capitals. Two on the same play against winger Alex Ovechkin on Sunday helped sink them in a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers.

But it's the ones they can control that have been the most frustrating to coach Adam Oates. Washington has been whistled for five unsportsmanlike conduct penalties this season and three 10-minute misconduct penalties.

Center Mike Ribeiro alone accounts for three of the five unsportsmanlike penalties. He was called for a high-sticking penalty Saturday, snapped and earned an extra two minutes for berating an official. The New York Islanders scored twice on the ensuing four-minute penalty in a 5-2 victory.

"They don't like the guys swearing anymore, which of course I understand -- except when you've been doing it your whole life, how do you expect guys to change in the heat of the battle?" Oates said. "I think that's really tough."

At the same time, Oates and forward Matt Hendricks both said those penalties have to stop. The Caps were incensed that officials missed two obvious calls during the Islanders game and then nailed Ribeiro. It's frustrating. But it's also life. And the NHL is clearly cracking down. Islanders assistant Brent Thompson earned a two-game suspension for verbal abuse of officials after Thursday's loss to the Rangers.

"Some refs don't like some personalities on our team, but anyway, you have to respect us," Ovechkin said. "We're emotional. We're in the game. When we say something bad to linesmen or bad to referees, we can't give them two minutes when they yell at me or they yell at coaches. It's kind of position when they have to give us a break."

- Brian McNally