Nicklas Backstrom was having another one of those games. A goal in the first period. A sweet saucer pass to Alex Ovechkin for a power play tally in the second. Then...it all took a sharp turn for the worse late in the third.
Backstrom was whistled for high sticking Nick Foligno with 1:34 remaining in a tied game.
Except Backstrom’s stick did not appear to touch Foligno, who threw his head back, presumably to get the attention of the referees.
Alexander Wennberg and the NHL’s top-rated power play wasted no time potting the game winner, and the Blue Jackets escaped Verizon Center with a 3-2 win, their second over the Capitals in a span of six days.
As you might imagine, Backstrom and Coach Barry Trotz seethed afterward. Trotz, in fact, went as far as to say Foligno should face discipline from the NHL for embellishment.
“I hope the league looks at that,” Trotz said. “If you see the replay, he doesn’t really touch him. And his head pops up when Backy’s stick is on the way down.”
According to league rules, a player is subject to a warning on his first offense. After that, the league can hand out a fine of up to $5,000, depending on the number of priors.
“The league will look at that,” Trotz said. “We have fines for that. I wouldn’t be too happy if I was a referee.”
Backstrom proclaimed his innocence, backing up what slow-mo replay showed in high definition: he went to lift the Columbus captain’s stick as he carried the puck out of the corner. And although Backstrom's stick came up high, it did not appear to make contact with Foligno’s visor.
“I didn’t touch him,” Backstrom said. “Last two minutes if you get a penalty that’s not a penalty, that’s tough. You guys seen the replay.”
Interestingly, Backstrom and Foligno were both sent off for matching roughing fouls in the second period after Backstrom took exception to a Foligno hit along the boards.
Although there was probably no connection between the two incidents, you can be certain of this much: the Caps cannot afford to have a point (or points) taken from them, particularly in the difficult Metropolitan Division. With the win, the Blue Jackets pulled to within two points of Washington in the standings.
“We should have got at least got one point out of this,” Backstrom said.
FROZEN MOMENTS: BEST IMAGES OF THE CAPITALS' SEASON THUS FAR