PITTSBURGH | It was one of those plays that was perhaps hard for referees Kelly Sutherland and Brad Watson to judge in real time. Alex Ovechkin clearly hit Zbynek Michalek into the boards awkwardly, but the Washington Capitals captain did not receive a penalty on the play.
Replays showed that Ovechkin left his feet to deliver the hit, which made contact with Michalek’s head, even though it was not the principal point of contact. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman also appeared to be slipping before the hit, and so Ovechkin did not look to be targeting Michalek’s head.
Michalek saw it a bit differently was not happy about the lack of a call.
“To me, when the play happened, he just went for my head,” he said. “I’ve been told that he left his feet. Hit my head. To me, it’s a definitely a penalty. They didn’t call it. It should have been called for sure.”
Michalek recently missed 10 games with a concussion.
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma was not expansive when asked about Ovechkin’s skates apparently coming off the ice for the hit.
“Your analysis was that he appeared to leave his feet?” Bylsma responded to a reporter with a wry smile. “Yes it was.”
Ovechkin was not asked to address the hit. Coach Dale Hunter talked about the impact of Ovechkin’s physical game to the Caps turning the heat up in the second period.
“He’s our captain and when he hits and plays like that, it gets everybody going that Ovi’s going, we’re going,” Hunter said. “He got us going. We were kind of flat up to that.”
It’s unclear whether Ovechkin will face any kind of supplemental discipline for the hit. No penalty being whistled on the play and Michalek sliding might provide enough mitigating circumstances for the Caps star to avoid a suspension.
A fine is also an option.
Ovechkin was suspended two games for a hit on Brian Campbell in 2010 and earlier that season in late 2009 for a knee-on-knee hit on Tim Gleason. Because both were more than 18 months ago, Ovechkin does not count as a repeat offender by the NHL’s rules.
But Michalek pointed out that Ovechkin does have a reputation for playing at least on the edge.
“It’s not the first time he’s hit me or somebody else like that,” Michalek said. “Some players are more protected than the others. It should be an even field.
“Next shift I took a penalty. It was a good call. I elbowed the guy. I just told the ref that if he’s going to make the call on me he should make it on him too. It should be an even field no matter who makes the hit.”
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