- The Washington Times - Friday, May 1, 2015

NEW YORKNew York Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said Friday that the officials had set the tone of the series by refusing to call a penalty on Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom following a stiff hit on Thursday.

Backstrom delivered a hard check to Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle against the boards with 5.4 seconds remaining, separating him from the puck and helping to set up a goal by Joel Ward that gave the Capitals a 2-1 victory in Game 1 of the teams’ Eastern Conference semifinal series.

“What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to learn from the games that we’ve played, and there’s definitely things we can learn from last night,” Vigneault told reporters following the Rangers‘ practice. “You can’t stop playing on a play. That’s what happened on that last play. The standards have been set for what’s allowed as far as hitting from behind. [Alex] Ovechkin on [New York Islanders defenseman Thomas] Hickey [in Game 7 of the first round]. Last night on Boyle. We know what the standards are. Play up to those standards.”

The league’s Department of Player Safety did not hand down any supplemental discipline to Backstrom on Friday, essentially condoning the hit. Backstrom said after the game that he thought nothing of the hit itself and that he was merely trying to finish his check.

“That’s what I tried to do and create chances from that,” Backstrom said. “There’s not going to be a lot of cute plays in the playoffs, so you’ve got to create your chances from forecheck. That’s what you’ve got to do.”

Backstrom was credited with five hits in the game, tying fourth-line right wing Tom Wilson for the most on the team. After Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh lost control of the puck following Ovechkin’s giveaway, Boyle took it into the right corner, where he was hit by Backstrom.

The center was gliding into the corner — he had not taken a step since entering the top of the faceoff circle — and hit Boyle with his right side, though it remains unclear where he made contact. Boyle collapsed against the boards and fell to the ice, but by the time he returned to his feet, Ovechkin’s pass was already on its way to Ward.

“I knew enough that it was a dangerous situation; I had to get back to the net,” Boyle told reporters on Friday, according to the (New York) Daily News, “but I got my bell rung pretty good.”

McDonagh told reporters after the game that he let up on the play because he assumed officials were about to call a penalty on Backstrom.

Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist also said after the game that “whatever happens, we have to keep playing, obviously, to the whistle, and we didn’t, so that’s a lesson for us.”

Capitals coach Barry Trotz said Friday that he had reviewed the hit and that he believed officials were correct in declining to call a penalty.

“Unfortunate, in terms of their defenseman,” Trotz said. “He saw him coming, it wasn’t much of a hit. There’s no elbow, there’s nothing. Yeah. There’s nothing really for me to comment on. I think the referees made the right call and you move on.”

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