At about the 3:40 mark of this video covering Alexander Ovechkin's(notes) post-Game 3 press conference, things take a turn for the bizarre. Suddenly, a presser filled with benign lines about ice conditions, missed opportunities and vows to play better becomes a tension convention:
The hell? He doesn't want to talk about Simeon Varlamov(notes), whose 39 saves were the sole reason this game even made it to overtime? Of course, he didn't want to talk about the officiating either, before complaining about the 7-2 infraction disparity between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals in the Pens' 3-2 overtime win.
Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau also voiced displeasure with the officiating:
"As far as penalties go, I hope I never hear them complain about penalties again, picks, and everything else. I think we might have deserved the penalties, but they sure as hell deserved more than they got."
The Penguins worked the refs before Game 3, for sure; but to what end? The Capitals had two delay of game penalties (Milan Jurcina(notes) and Brian Pothier(notes)) and two fairly obvious slashing penalties (Mike Green(notes) and Simeon Varlamov). So that's four of seven that had to be called; were the other ones cheap?
Ovechkin called the officiating disparity "kind of a joke" after the game, which is his right. But the Capitals were given the last power play of regulation on a Pascal Dupuis(notes) interference penalty with less than three minutes left. They were given a chance to win.
This isn't saying the Penguins didn't commit more than two fouls -- and that disparity will certainly even out in Game 4, one assumes -- but as Boudreau indicated, the Capitals earned their time in the sin bin.
Yet by the time Dupuis was sent off in the third, the Capitals were exhausted. You could see it in the overtime, where players like Ovechkin weren't just fighting ice conditions but palpable fatigue. From the DC Sports Bog:
"They had their foot on the pedal the whole second half of the game, and they deserved to win tonight," Mike Green said. "It's playoffs, you've got to suck it up. But it seemed like they were coming at us in waves and that's why we couldn't make any plays, and therefore we're running around in our own zone, wasting our energy. So yeah, we were a little bit tired, but like I said, they deserved to win tonight, they played a better game than us."
And the game they played was reminiscent of how the New York Rangers pushed the Capitals to seven games: Good forechecking and containment in the offensive zone; taking away space from the shooters in the defensive zone; and wearing down a team that thrives on finesse and speed. All that was missing was the stellar goaltending.
As one look at today's edition of The Pensblog will tell you, it was certainly Pittsburgh's night.
Can the Penguins repeat the feat for Game 4? Is this the start of the rally, or a gutsy performance that prolongs the inevitable?