- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2016

Karl Alzner was smiling on Thursday.

It was a defense mechanism, by his own admission — one he deployed to deflect the pain he was feeling both physically and emotionally after the Washington Capitals’ season ended with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins in Game 6 on Tuesday.

What stung Alzner the most was sitting on the bench after aggravating a groin injury. It pained him to watch helplessly as the Capitals gave up consecutive power-play goals in a 33-second span in the second period to fall behind, 3-0, then rallied ferociously and lost in overtime.

“That was probably the hardest period of hockey that I’ve ever been a part of,” said Alzner, who sustained the injury in Game 3 of the first round against the Philadelphia Flyers.

“When you watch the game — as a player, it’s hard to watch the game. It’s easy to watch on TV or watch from the stands and say, ‘Oh, I would do this different or I would do that different,’ but it was hard to see that we had done such a good job on the [penalty kill] the whole playoffs and then for them to finally get two goals, and to be watching it from the bench, that part was hard for me to see. I’m very proud of the guys and the way they were able to come back in the third, that was phenomenal, but not a fun 20 minutes of my life.”

Alzner said he was able to manage the injury at the start of the series against the Penguins. With the help of a cortisone shot, the Capitals’ defenseman said he felt great in Game 5 and even better entering Game 6.

“And then it was just kind of a weird one-two movement and I just felt it pop and we went in and had a look at it,” Alzner said. “As far as I know, there’s a little partial tear in the groin, so I was not at a point where I could help the team. When you saw my shift in the second period more hurt the team, at that point, we knew it was time.”

As of right now, it is uncertain if Alzner needs surgery, but he said it was unlikely he was going to be able to play in Game 7 had the Capitals won. Earlier in the season, Alzner played with a broken thumb, a strained oblique and a pulled hip flexor, all of which he said happened within a span of four games.

No other Capitals players said they anticipate having surgery in the offseason, though there will be plenty of resting. Defenseman Brooks Orpik, who missed 40 games in the regular season, specified that he broke a femur. His absence began after a loss to Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 10, but Orpik said the injury, caused by a blocked shot and a knee to his thigh, began five games prior against the Columbus Blue Jackets.

“That was something I tried to play through in the beginning and wound up making it a lot worse,” Orpik said. “It’s pretty frustrating.”

Orpik also missed the last three games of the first-round series against the Flyers with a concussion and a neck injury. Left wing Marcus Johansson also said he was injured in the playoffs which is why he will skip the World Championships, but did not disclose any more information.

Defenseman John Carlson, who missed 25 games over two separate stints, he broke one of his ankles, but that he felt 100 percent in the playoffs. Left wing Alex Ovechkin revealed that he missed the All-Star Game earlier this year with what he described as a lower back injury. Coach Barry Trotz also said after Game 4 that right wing Daniel Winnik had two injuries, including what appeared to be a shoulder injury after taking a hit from the Penguins’ Evgeni Malkin, but Winnik said on Thursday he was fine.

Capitals center Evgeny Kuznetsov, in his second full season with Washington, scored 20 goals and had 45 assists in the first 62 games. Over the final 20 regular-season games, however, he didn’t score a goal. He tallied 12 assists and added just two points in the playoffs — one goal and an assist.

The 23-year-old maintained that injuries did not factor into his dip in production.

“I’m not ready to talk about my game right now,” Kuznetsov said. “I know it’s not perfect and not even normal. It’s kind of tough right now to talk about that.”

• Anthony Gulizia can be reached at agulizia@washingtontimes.com.

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