WASHINGTON — Alex Ovechkin may have scored a goal to help the Capitals to a 3-2 victory over the Rangers yesterday to even the Eastern Conference semifinals at two games apiece, but it was his hit on Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi that generated the most discussion about his performance.
Ovechkin, who has been suspended three times by the NHL, left his feet to deliver a shot to Girardi’s head and shoulder midway through the second period, earning a charging minor.
“He hit me in the head a bit there,” said Girardi, who stayed in the game. “It was the right call.”
STUFF CAP-PENS: The Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin (right) celebrates a goal with teammate Roman Hamrlik in the first period yesterday, before leaving his feet to deliver a hit on the Rangers’ Dan Girardi and being assessed a 2-minute penalty for charging.
Not surprisingly, the view from the opposing locker room was decidedly different.
“I just missed the puck,” Ovechkin said. “I tried to get the puck and I saw he was coming so I tried to protect myself.”
Ovechkin also denied catching Girardi in the head with the hit.
“The head?” he asked. “No, I think it was the shoulder.”
Girardi had a different view.
“He hit me in the head first,” he said.
Girardi also wasn’t interested in discussing whether the hit should have merited a 5-minute major, as opposed to the 2-minute minor Ovechkin received.
“I’m not going to judge that,” Girardi said. “There are a lot of hits throughout the game. He’s a big guy, he hits hard. I saw him coming, then he hit me.”
The Capitals seemed unconcerned about Ovechkin being subjected to any additional disciplinary measures by the league.
“I didn’t see the replay on it yet, but I think both of them were surprised they hit each other,” Washington coach Dale Hunter said. “It was incidental contact. ... They were looking down and they hit each other.”
“I was surprised that it was even a penalty,” Capitals defenseman Karl Alzner said. “Honestly, I’m not too worried about it. I’d be surprised if something happened.”
Despite the fact Ovechkin left his feet and hit Girardi — who didn’t have the puck — up high, it seemed unlikely the NHL would administer any additional fines or suspensions for the hit.
If the league does impose discipline on Ovechkin, though, it wouldn’t be the first time. He is a repeat offender in the league’s disciplinary system. The Capitals captain was forced to sit out twice for two games in 2009-10 — first for a knee-on-knee hit on the Hurricanes’ Tim Gleason and later for a hit on Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell.
Then, earlier this season, Ovechkin earned a three-game suspension for a hit on the Penguins’ Zbynek Michalek. When the suspension was handed down shortly before the All-Star Game, Ovechkin announced he wouldn’t be attending.
The Rangers have seen multiple incidents with hits to the head in the first two rounds. Against Ottawa, Carl Hagelin received a three-game suspension for elbowing Senators forward Daniel Alfredsson in the head, while Ottawa’s Matt Carkner was assessed a one-game suspension for repeatedly punching a defenseless Brian Boyle.