- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 26, 2006

PITTSBURGH — Last night, every moment off the ice appeared to be devoted to memories of Mario Lemieux, to everything the retired player accomplished for the Penguins and the city of Pittsburgh.

What Lemieux, in attendance with his wife, didn’t need to see was what happened on the ice: an unprovoked attack on Alex Ovechkin that left the Washington Capitals rookie twisting in pain.

In the end, the ugliness involving Ovechkin overshadowed the game, which is probably good news for the Caps. Pittsburgh, which had lost its previous 10 games, ran roughshod over Washington 8-1.

Nothing went right for the Caps. There was a complete collapse, offensively and defensively. The Caps’ penalty-killing, one of the bright spots of late, gave up three goals after killing 21 straight opportunities.

Pittsburgh’s star rookie, Sidney Crosby, won the head-to-head matchup with Ovechkin. Ovechkin scored Washington’s lone goal, while Crosby had a goal and assisted on three others. Crosby has six points against the Caps this year, while Ovechkin has just two in the teams’ two meetings.

The ugly incident involving Ovechkin happened in the final seconds of the middle period. Defenseman Ryan Whitney, usually a rather meek individual, turned to face Ovechkin as the left wing skated into the slot from the left boards. Whitney put his stick between Ovechkin’s legs and raised it with a predictable result.

The left wing screeched in pain and fell immediately to the ice. Trainer Greg Smith rushed to his side and started applying aid. After several minutes the rookie was assisted from the ice, still doubled up, on the arms of two teammates.

Ovechkin, who returned for the third period but was not skating with the same free-flowing style, declined to be interviewed after the game.

Whitney said he “was only trying to block him out. I got my stick between his legs and lifted it up. I didn’t mean [to hurt him]. … I’m sure it didn’t feel very good. I wouldn’t want to feel it myself.”

Whitney was ejected for spearing and probably will face a league review. Caps wing Brian Willsie got 17 minutes in penalties for going after Whitney.

Ovechkin skated eight shifts in each of the first two periods but only four in the third.

“He’s OK,” coach Glen Hanlon said.

“I didn’t get a chance to see it very clearly” was all Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien would say on the matter.

Added Washington defenseman Brendan Witt: “I don’t know if he did it on purpose or not. I don’t know if he was trying to box him out and missed between his legs. I don’t know. Ovie’s a tough kid, and it takes a lot to get him down. If it was a cheap shot, well, we play them on the 11th [of February].”

As for the game, Hanlon was asked whether his team did anything right.

“Not a thing,” he replied.

Notes — Add left wing Ben Clymer to the list of those unable to perform. Clymer came down with the flu and was scratched, forcing the team to recall left wing-center Colin Forbes, who had been reassigned to Hershey a day earlier. Also mending are defensemen Jamie Heward (groin) and Steve Eminger (ankle), both out since the West Coast trip from Jan. 12 to 16. Eminger caught his right foot in a rut in Anaheim on Jan.13 and injured either his ankle or knee — the team won’t disclose the injury.

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