Look I get it. The Capitals are playing in their second game of a back-to-back series. Last night, they expended a ton of energy in a different time zone, defeating Chicago 3-2 in overtime. The Caps looked flat and disinterested against the last-place Canes in Raleigh. After Evgeny Kuznetsov scored in the first period, the Caps immediately gave up two unanswered goals to Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen.
All of that is understandable. This retaliation penalty by Alex Ovechkin was not.
4:36 into the second period, Ovechkin cleared the puck out of the defensive zone and started skating up the ice. It was at that point Jordan Staal shoved Ovechkin into linesman Shandor Alphonso at the Canes bench – an unnecessary but legal play.
A frustrated Ovechkin, not thinking, unleashed a homerun swing on Staal in retaliation, whacking the alternate captain in the rear. The linesman whistled Ovechkin for a slashing minor.
1:23 later, Staal got the last laugh, scoring on the power play he drew. The goal put the Hurricanes up 3-1.
Victor Rask would add another tally 4:38 later, giving the Canes a 4-1 lead. The Capitals would never recover, losing 5-1.
Ovechkin cannot take penalties like this. When the Capitals are struggling, Ovechkin needs to lead by example and be more disciplined than this. And normally he does.
As a twelve-year veteran, Ovechkin knows that the retaliatory penalties are always called. He knows he should take the hit, see who dished it, and get his opponent back later… legally.
This game was a stinker, but it wasn’t until Ovechkin used his twig as a baseball bat that it was over. Sure plays like this don’t matter in November, but they can shift a playoff series in May and June. Just don’t do it.
Your teammates look up to you.
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