After the New York Rangers lost to the Capitals in Game 1 of their second-round series, coach Alain Vigneault wondered if a new standard had been set when big hits by Alex Ovechkin [on the Islanders’ Thomas Hickey] and Nicklas Backsrom [on the Rangers’ Dan Boyle] went unpenalized.
It was a veiled shot at the referees and a quiet plea for them to protect players better.
And it worked. In Game 2, the Capitals were whistled for three first-period penalties [Karl Alzner for interference, Joel Ward for hooking and Tom Wilson for charging], the Rangers converted on one of them, and New York prevailed to even the series.
Capitals coach Barry Trotz saw that as an opportunity to critique the officials, saying he thought the pendulum swayed in the other direction.
“We’ve had conversations with the supervisor and the standard has been sort of re-calibrated in terms of the hooking and holding and some of those things,” Trotz said. “We’ve just got to adjust.”
Which brings us to Game 3.
Early in the third period, Caps defenseman Brooks Orpik went behind his net and was drilled, headfirst into the glass, on a clean but potentially devastating hit by Rangers left wing Rick Nash.
“I knew he was coming,” Orpik said. “I think I probably put myself in a bad position there. We’ve been going at it pretty good all series.”
Orpik, who was slow to get up and stretched his neck on the bench before returning to action, said he was OK with Nash’s hit going unpenalized until Wilson was slapped with a boarding penalty on Rangers forward James Sheppard on a similar play in front of the Capitals’ bench.
“I think we’re more upset that if you let that [hit by Nash] go, how do you call the Wilson one [on Sheppard]?” Orpik said. “A lot of people don’t like Willy these days.”