Alan May: Caps need to play fast, score ugly
NEW YORK -- The numbers speak for themselves.
On the 12 occasions the Capitals were forced to kill five or more penalties in a game during the regular season, they were 3-7-2. And of the six times they surrendered six or more power plays they were 0-5-1.
With that as a backdrop, it is no wonder the Caps failed to recover from Monday night’s parade to the penalty box, when six minor penalties played a big part in their 4-3 loss to the Rangers in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
"Our PK has been great for us as of late,” Capitals right wing Troy Brouwer said Tuesday as the Capitals reflected on their best-of-seven series against the Rangers, which the Caps now lead two games to one. “But if you take that many penalties, they're bound to get good lucks, they're bound to score.”
The Rangers went 1-for-6 on the man-advantage but scored another goal just as Joel Ward was leaving the penalty box for a high-sticking minor.
Undisciplined play was a big reason for the Caps’ undoing early in the season – they took five or more minor penalties in eight of their first 16 games – but the team had turned the corner in the second half of the season, allowing teams five or more power plays just three times in the final 25 games.
On Monday night, Alex Ovechkin was slapped with a questionable roughing minor just 63 seconds into the game and was followed to the box by Joel Ward [high-sticking], Mathieu Perreault [too many men], Braden Holtby [tripping, served by Ovechkin], Jay Beagle [hooking] and Steve Oleksy [elbowing] before the game was 30 minutes old..
“I thought some of the calls were dicey,” Capitals coach Adam Oates said. “To be down 6-1 in penalties in a game … you feel a little bit slighted on the calls.”
Oates was particularly upset over the too many men penalty, which came 14:08 into the first period after Perresult jumped over the boards and played the puck before the player he replaced arrived at the bench.
“I think it’s the wrong call,” Oates said. “If you look at the tape, both guys touch the puck at the same time and there are 12 guys on the ice. I have to tell you, to me that’s a bad call. It’s frustrating.”
Capitals right wing Eric Fehr, who spent 3:13 of his 11:55 of ice time on the penalty kill, agreed.
“There were a couple unfortunate calls,” Fehr said, “penalties that weren’t necessarily called in Games 1 and 2. And against a team as skilled as the Rangers, they’re going to find a way to score eventually.”
Oates said it was hard for him to blame his players for undisciplined play when they all disagreed with the calls made by the officials.
“You see that call with 12 guys on the ice. Is that our fault?” Oates said. “I can’t yell at the guys for discipline when to me they were in the right spot.”
After going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the series the Rangers made some minor adjustments to their power play, generating more offense from the points and running more traffic in front of Caps goalie Braden Holtby.
Oates said it was his star players who felt the biggest impact from the penalties. While Marty Erat, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, John Carlson and Karl Alzner each logged more than 3 minutes of shorthanded time, Alex Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro sat cold on the bench.
After the game, a few Rangers said Ovechkin looked tired in the third period. Oates disagreed.
“I don’t think he was tired,” he said. “I think I didn’t do a good job getting him into his rhythm because of the penalties. I doubled him up on the fourth line but until then it was hard because every time I was thinking about it we got another penalty.”
Brouwer said he sensed the New York crowd was growing impatient with the Rangers before Brian Boyle scored at the end of their first power-play of the game and hopes the Caps can capitalize on that Wednesday night by keeping the game at even strength.
“The crowd was starting to boo them with their lack of PP production and then they scored at the very end of it,” he said. “If we were able to hold off that PP and continue to keep our momentum, the crowd would have been on them pretty good and I think the outcome might have been different."
Instead, the Caps head into Game 4 with the chance to take another two-game lead in the series or return home to Washington locked in a 2-2 tie.
“We’ve just got to win tomorrow,” Fehr said. “You don’t ever want to say you just want to win your home games because they’re not easy. They’re equally as tough. We just have to go into MSG and win a game.”