- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The frustration is clear in Bruce Boudreau’s voice. He’s tired of talking about all the penalties whistled on the Washington Capitals the past couple of weeks.

“Of course I don’t like it,” he said Monday, one day after the Florida Panthers scored three power-play goals in a 6-2 victory.

It’s a growing issue for the Caps, who have committed 38 minor penalties in a six-game stretch that includes three losses. In those games, Washington has been forced to play short-handed 15 percent of the time.

“We talk about this the last couple of weeks: It is time to realize we can’t play with four guys - we can’t play on the PK the whole time if we want to win the game,” left wing Alex Ovechkin said. “Everybody understands this.”

The penalty kill is effective in some games - the Pittsburgh Penguins finished 1-for-8 in a loss to the Caps on Feb. 22 - despite a rash of calls. But the Caps have been short-handed for 54:46 dating to their loss to Colorado on Feb. 20 - meaning less time for Ovechkin and the offense to work on the other end.

That was a problem in the first period Sunday. After jumping to a 1-0 lead, the Caps committed three penalties before the first intermission; Florida cashed in on every chance.

Boudreau said some calls were “iffy at best.” Still, giving up three unanswered power-play goals illustrates the danger of spending too much time in the box.

“Obviously it is discipline, but they were just outworking us,” right wing Matt Bradley said. “When the other team is outworking you and you’re trying to take the easy way out all the time, you’re going to take penalties.”

Boudreau made clear that his team wasn’t taking lazy penalties connected to players not moving their feet. Lately, he and his staff have been showing the players what is and what is not considered a penalty by league standards.

“If they don’t call [a penalty], you gotta assume you’re getting away with one,” Boudreau said. “Assume if you did it yesterday, you’re getting lucky if they don’t call it.”

And the Caps’ potent offense is making up for any lack of luck. Washington ranks third in the league with 213 goals and is tied for second on the power play, scoring 24.7 percent of the time.

But the short-handed stats are cause for concern. The Caps rank 22nd in the league (79.4 percent) in penalty killing, and the team has allowed 65 power-play goals - second most to Atlanta.

Florida’s 3-for-6 performance Sunday didn’t encourage Boudreau, but the good news for the Caps is that their penalty kill worked at an 86.2 percent clip in the five games before Sunday, aided by 1-for-8 efforts by Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.

And in three games so far this season against Tuesday night’s opponent, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Caps have allowed just one power-play goal in 12 chances. Still, the penalties are a trend Boudreau hopes to stem down the stretch.

“The whole penalty situation is something we look at,” he said. “And I’m hoping within the next 15 games we can get it worked out.”

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