Through most of the Washington Capitals-New York Rangers Eastern Conference quarterfinals, the notion that familiarity from recent playoff meetings bred contempt was just a cliché. Of course there was some pushing and shoving, but as defenseman John Erskine lines to say, “that’s playoff hockey.”
Then came Game 6, when some pushing and shoving and retaliatory penalties ratcheted up the intensity.
“Guys hit hard,” defenseman Karl Alzner said. “There was a lot of stuff after the whistle, up the ice behind the play. No one likes to take any crap from anybody, and you get emotions running high.”
Goaltender Braden Holtby accused Rangers agitator Derek Dorsett of a “dirty slew foot” on defenseman Mike Green. Green cross-checked Dorsett in the face as retaliation.
Jack Hillen and Eric Fehr took a couple of shots at Rangers players who goaded them into retaliatory penalties. New York went 0-for-5 on the power play, but not taking penalties is a concern for the Caps going into Monday night’s Game 7.
“I look it at it kind of like that bird that sits on your shoulder,” forward Matt Hendricks said. “It’s always chirping in your ear. You need that. It’s one of those aspects of the game, one of the details in the game that always needs to be reiterated, especially in the playoffs when emotions run high and frustrations run high. We need to be a more disciplined hockey team.”
Counting the scrum at the end of Game 6, in which four minor penalties were handed out. Caps defenseman John Carlson and right wing Troy Brouwer and Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi and center Derek Stepan each got two minutes for roughing.
“That’s what happens in the playoffs,” center Nicklas Backstrom said. “I don’t know.”
“Didn’t like the way they took a couple shots at Nick there,” Brouwer said. “Just battles that the result is the series goes on.”
Dorsett takes pride in being a pest, and he drew two penalties in Game 6.
“When I get moving my feet and playing hard, sometimes it can get under the skin of other guys,” he said. “Anytime I can do that, I want to try and help get the team on the power play.”
The Caps took seven penalties in Game 6 to the Rangers’ two, both of which didn’t have any impact on the result. But the scrum at the end could set a contentious tone for Monday night.
“Emotions ride high in the post-season and things like that are bound to happen,” Dorsett said. “That’s a fun part of the game, and you can expect it more.”