Tightly called game winds up hurting Capitals at Rangers

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NEW YORK | Karl Alzner understood why he was called for a tripping penalty early in the third period Sunday night.

“The only thing is you hope [the official] gives you the benefit of the doubt for it being a hockey play, checking a guy and him trying to jump over the stick,” Alzner said after the Washington Capitals’ 2-1 loss at the New York Rangers. “He didn’t, and I have to deal with that. It’s just crappy that that’s pretty much the reason why we lost the game.”

Derek Stepan scored the winning goal for the Rangers seven seconds after Alzner went to the box for tripping Brad Richards. It was a tough break on a night filled with some uneven officiating.

“There’s a couple calls I’m sure every night that you can say that. It goes both ways,” coach Adam Oates said. “Maybe tonight, we were on the short end of the stick, but there’s plenty of nights where we’re not, so bottom line is you’ve gotta be in control and we can’t take penalties.”

Nine minor penalties were called Sunday night. The Caps had four power plays over 8:00, and the Rangers had five over 8:07.

So it’s not like there was much of a discrepancy. But while some were blatant calls, like J.T. Miller’s slash on Eric Fehr and Jason Chimera’s boarding of Dan Girardi, others were harder to distinguish. Center Nicklas Backstrom got away with a trip on Rangers captain Ryan Callahan, too.

“The officials were calling it pretty tight, but even for both teams,” defenseman Tom Poti said. “It was pretty fair from those guys.”

Oates questioned Troy Brouwer’s boarding penalty as one that could’ve gone uncalled.

“That play happens so many times,” he said.” It could’ve been called on Karl Alzner late in the third. I thought the same exact kind of hit. It’s tough, but those things even out over time.”

Except the power-play goals didn’t even out. The Rangers got one on tic-tac-toe passing, while the Caps came up empty.

“We had a couple of one-timers that we should’ve hit the net,” Backstrom said. “It’s tough.”

And while Oates’ message to his players was “to leave the refs alone” because they’re trying to do a tough job, the ultimate lesson is to not put them in a spot to make game-changing calls.

“Bottom line is you’ve gotta be in control,” Oates said, “and we can’t take penalties.”

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