WASHINGTON – About two hours before the opening faceoff, Alex Ovechkin asked for more respect from the refs.
His day went downhill from there.
The two-time league MVP was directly responsible for three of the New York Rangers’ goals, including a pair after a rare sequence in which he was cited for two penalties within seconds of each other without a stoppage in play.
Derek Stepan, Brian Boyle and Ryan Callahan took advantage of Ovechkin’s miscues Sunday to lead the Rangers to a 4-1 win over the Washington Capitals, New York’s fifth win in six games.
“When we’re parading to the box all the time,” Washington forward Troy Brouwer said, “we don’t have a hope.”
Steve Oleksy scored his first NHL goal for the Capitals, who endured a rough weekend against teams named New York. Washington lost 5-2 on the road against the Islanders on Saturday, a game in which Mike Ribeiro and Jeff Schultz each took double-minors in a span of less than four minutes in the third period, leading to two Islanders goals.
One of Ribeiro’s minors was for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Ovechkin said before Sunday’s game that “some refs don’t like some personalities on our team” and are too quick to call a penalty when they hear a complaint.
“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.”
It’s worth noting, however, that the rare double-call against Ovechkin a few hours later had nothing to do with yelling at an official. He tripped Callahan, and then, with the call delayed while New York was pulling the goalie, he dragged down Ryan McDonagh from the side for a holding call.
“I know I trip him, the first one … but I don’t know where he finds the second one,” Ovechkin said. “But it cost us the game.”
Washington coach Adam Oates had a beef with the second call as well.
“They said that he held the guy 10 seconds later, which obviously watching the tape, he didn’t,” Oates said.
Regardless, referees Dean Morton and Marc Joannette both had arms raised because of Ovechkin. As played continued, Boyle scored his first goal of the season, beating goaltender Braden Holtby glove-side to make the score 2-1 before Ovechkin’s first penalty could be assessed.
Ovechkin then went to the box to serve the second infraction, and he watched the score become 3-1 just 41 seconds later, when Rick Nash’s one-timer from the right circle grazed Callahan’s right leg on the way to the net.
The sequence led to the inevitable question: Did the referees’ calls against Ovechkin have anything to do with his pregame comments.
“I mean, they’re human beings, right?” Oates answered.
Ovechkin also whiffed on a neutral zone hit on Stepan that allowed the Rangers centre to score in the first period. Stepan kept skating, giving New York a numbers advantage, and he took the puck past the goal line and banked in his shot off the back of Holtby’s right skate.
Ovechkin said he tried to make the hit, but that Stepan moved out of the way at the last second. Asked if it was the correct play for Ovechkin to make, Oates said: “No, it’s not. We have tracking rules and I think he was going to hit him and he let him go, and because of that we got a little out of position.”
The Capitals had a chance to make up ground when a pair of calls gave them a 5-on-3 power play for 31 seconds late in the second period, but Martin Biron (28 saves) and the Rangers held firm.
Brad Richards added an insurance goal in the third period.
Boyle’s goal was an important one for the Rangers centre. He was a healthy scratch in New York’s previous game and has been trying to work his way out of coach John Tortorella’s doghouse.
“I tried to start a new season, basically,” Boyle said. “I tried to put myself in position to do the things that I can do well. I tried to keep it simple.”
Notes: Tortorella on Ovechkin’s pair of penalties: “That’s the first time I’ve seen it. I was asking about the faceoff. Shouldn’t the faceoff be in the end zone, instead of at centre ice? It should be. We’ve got to put a new rule in the rulebook.” … After the Rangers’ third goal, Oates pulled Holtby in favour of Michal Neuvirth, who hadn’t played since Feb. 7 and had recently been sidelined with an illness. … With Neuvirth recovered, the Capitals assigned goalie Philipp Grubauer to Hershey of the AHL. … Washington D John Erskine sat out after sustaining an upper body injury early in Saturday’s game, while C Marcus Johansson returned after missing 12 games with a concussion. … Veteran D Roman Hamrlik, now playing for the Rangers after being claimed off waivers from Washington last week, was a healthy scratch. “He’s not in shape,” Tortorella said. “He needs work.”
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