Alex Ovechkin served a three-game suspension during the regular season for a head shot on Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek that NHL VP of player safety Brendan Shanahan said was clearly charging. There was no penalty on that play, and the Washington Capitals captain still faced supplemental discipline.
It's uncertain if Ovechkin will face anything beyond a two-minute minor for his hit on New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi in Game 4 on Saturday, and there's sharp debate about the star left wing's intent and what happened on the play.
Ovechkin left his feet to make contact with Girardi, though he said he hit the defenseman's shoulder. Girardi felt and saw it differently.
"He hit my head a bit there, but I think it was the right call. I'm not sure what it was, whether it was, charging or interference or whatever. But my head's kind of there, he hits it, but I think he's just playing the game hard," Girardi said.
Asked if Ovechkin made contact with his shoulder first, he said it was actually his head.
"I just missed the puck," Ovechkin said. "I tried to kick the puck and I saw he was coming, so I just got to protect myself."
Washington coach Dale Hunter admitted after the 3-2 victory that he didn't see a replay. But he also doesn't believe any kind of league-imposed discipline is coming.
"I think both of them were surprised they hit each other. It was incidental contact where both of them were looking down and they hit each other," Hunter said. "It was more incidental contact where both of them were protecting themselves and trying to get out of the way."
Citing a league source, Newsday reported that it was highly unlikely Ovechkin would face further discipline from the league.
On NBC, analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury disagreed on the intent.
"It's circumstantial. The puck was in his feet and then he leapt up after," Jones said. "I think he elevated more to protect himself than he did to knock Dan Girardi down."
Milbury said it was "still not acceptable."
"He's got to at least be fined. This a a guy that does this all the time as a matter of course," Milbury added. "I think you got to just lay the law down. I don't think it's more than a fine, but I think send a message."
Because Ovechkin is a repeat offender, he would likely face a suspension rather than a fine.
Girardi did not believe it was incidental contact.
"I saw him coming, then he hit me," he said. "Obviously I knew he was gonna hit me and he's a big guy, but I saw it coming."
Told of Ovechkin's answer that he tried to protect himself, Girardi said: "I'm not even gonna get in the middle of that."
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