The Washington Times - February 10, 2012, 12:22PM

Brooks Laich blocked a shot. That’s not a shocking revelation or anything, but the Washington Capitals were defending a 2-0 lead and the shot-blocking specialist got his stick in front of a slap shot from Dustin Byfuglien.

There was so much power on the shot that it broke the shaft of Laich’s stick. Not enough to shatter it, but still enough. When Laich then played the puck, he was whistled for a penalty for playing with a broken stick.


“I tried to clear the puck right away and I wasn’t aware that it had snapped, and he made the call,” Laich said.

It wasn’t that penalty that cost the Caps in their 3-2 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, but it was a key moment in the beginning of the snowball effect late in the third period.

And it was one of those tough plays for Laich, who didn’t want to comment on the validity of the call.

It all happened so fast.

“If you have a couple seconds, you can check it out,” Laich said. “But in a bang-bang play, especially four minutes left, already down six-on-four, it’s pretty tough to take a second to check your stick when a puck’s up for grabs.”

It appeared as if Laich recognized the stick was broken just as he tried to clear the puck out of the Caps’ defensive zone. His teammates did not blame him for anything on that play.

“It’s not like the stick is an extension of your body. You feel that’s in tact in the handle; you don’t know it’s broken down below,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “It’s your first instinct to play the puck, no matter what’s going on with your stick. The call can go either way depending on the night, I think.”

And while Laich and coach Dale Hunter didn’t offer their thoughts on a penalty that allowed the Jets a two-man advantage on which they scored, other Caps players were not big fans.

“I don’t think it was penalty on Brooksie,” captain Alex Ovechkin said. “He don’t see stick was broken; I got couple blocked shots with my stick and I still play with my broken stick and I didn’t have a call.”

Alzner wondered if it was a make-up call for an earlier penalty on Winnipeg’s Tobias Enstrom. Troy Brouwer insinuated the same.

“A tough call, we feel. A stick breaks, a guy doesn’t know it breaks and he plays the puck,” the right wing said. “He’s just doing what any guy in the NHL would do. Maybe it was because of a prior incident, but we got the call against us and anytime you’re down six-on-three it’s pretty tough.”

Laich, however, didn’t think his penalty was any kind of real turning point. A 2-0 lead became a tie game soon after, but Hunter called those some bad “hockey breaks.”

“I thought our guys did a great job. I think there was 51 seconds and we got down to about 15 seconds and I thought we were going to kill it,” Laich said. “And then unfortunately there was a blocked shot and then a deflection and they get the one goal. And the second goal was an absolute fluke. I still thought we were going to win the hockey game.”