By Reed S. Albers
There are good penalties in hockey. For example, one that prevents a goal or scoring opportunity that might have swayed the momentum in a game. Then there are bad ones.
Alex Ovechkin’s retaliatory take down of Brad Winchester following his charge on Alexander Semin in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks can be lumped in with the bad.
After clawing back from a 2-1 deficit in the third period against a team that the Caps have had rare road success (in case you didn’t know, they haven’t won in San Jose since 1993), Ovechkin hunted down Winchester following a crushing hit laid on his Russian teammate.
The referee’s hand went up and instead of a 5-on-4 power play opportunity that might have given the Caps a chance to even the score at 3-3, Ovechkin was handed a two minute roughing minor.
It’s a shame, too.
Against a Sharks team that doesn’t take many penalties (the Sharks have only been penalized 153 times, the lowest in the NHL), the Caps were able to convert on their first and only 5-on-4 chance in the game.
Without the Ovechkin penalty, the Caps might have closed a one-goal gap created by Patrick Marleau’s goal just moments after Joel Ward evened the score at 2-2 to start the third.
Washington might have walked out of HP Pavilion Arena with at least a point, their first since a tie game in 1997.
They might have extended their winning streak to five games and with the losses of Nicklas Backstrom and Mike Green (injured during the game after a hit from Andrew Desjardins), overcome some adversity that could buoy the team on their West Coast road trip.
Unfortunately, Ovechkin helplessly watched from the penalty box as Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored to give San Jose a 4-2 lead that ended any comeback hopes. An empty net goal by Torrey Mitchell sealed the win.
While the Caps’ four game winning streak might be over, it doesn’t mean the hot streak of hockey is completely lost.
Despite the 5-2 score, the game was considerably close until the Ovechkin penalty.
Washington saw another night of solid goaltending from Tomas Vokoun until the team’s third period collapse and the team responded to a late second period goal by Brent Burns with Ward’s strike in the third.
The power play stayed hot with a second period goal from Dennis Wideman and Ovechkin continued to chug along with his new and improved look that meshed his power forward game with a touch of new creativity.
It’s a loss that stinks because what could have been a win, or at least a point in a not-so lucky arena, turned into a deceptive 5-2 score, but one can hope it serves as a building block.
Lessons learned should include when to retaliate, such as the numerous times Vokoun was run in his crease, and when to let the power play dish out the payback.
Whether or not they sink in is the question now.