NEW YORK — Washington coach Adam Oates doesn't think Alex Ovechkin was "tired" late in the Capitals' Game 3 loss to the Rangers, despite that insinuation by New York defenseman Ryan McDonagh.
In talking about the game-winning goal by Derek Stepan, McDonagh told the New York Daily News that he thought Ovechkin looked fatigued.
"Step's got pressure, so he didn't get the puck in my wheelhouse, and I kind of caught it off-center," McDonagh said. "And then I was seeing Ovi standing straight-legged, like he was tired, so I tried to go back against him and keep the play alive. That was great passing by [Mats Zuccarello and Rick Nash], and Stepan goes to the net. That was a huge goal."
Replays showed Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and Marcus Johansson made mistakes on the play that led to Stepan's goal at the 13:35 mark of the third period Monday in the Rangers' 4-3 win.
The Caps, who lead the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series 2-1, did not practice Tuesday, and Ovechkin was not made available to reporters.
Asked about McDonagh's comment, Oates disagreed and took responsibility for Ovechkin not getting regular shifts.
"I don't think he was tired," the Caps' coach said. "I think that I didn't do a good enough job getting him in his rhythm, probably because of penalties."
The Caps spent 10:08 of the first 28:32 short-handed, making it difficult for Oates to find ice time for players such as Ovechkin and Mike Ribeiro, who don't kill penalties.
Oates double-shifted Ovechkin with the fourth line for 25 seconds during the second period, and Washington's captain finished with 22:07 of ice time.
"I doubled him up on the fourth line one time, and then after that we were OK. But until then it was hard because every time I was thinking about it, we got another penalty," Oates said. "It was tough."
Erskine feeling good after big hit
John Erskine was feeling good the day after taking a big hit from Ryan Callahan in Game 3, Oates said Tuesday morning.
"I saw him this morning, myself, actually, and he said he felt good," Oates said outside the team's New York hotel. "That's good to know."
The big defenseman left the game in the first period and "wasn't feeling fantastic," Oates said. Erskine was tested, the coach said, and he returned early in the second period.
Erskine missed the final 4:18 of the first period but played 17:38. He did not speak to reporters Monday night or Tuesday morning.
"It was good to see him come back," right wing Troy Brouwer said. "He looked a little shaken up after it happened. But Ersk is a tough guy. He's going to come back and play hard. That's who he is.
"He is one of those guys that they're going to try and target because he plays quite a few minutes for us. To get him back, it's a relief. Hopefully he's clearing his head and having some fun today and can relax."
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.