Washington Capitals Win in OT; Alex Ovechkin Headed for Discipline?

Dave Nichols@@DaveNicholsDSPSenior Analyst IMarch 14, 2010

Nicklas Backstrom scored on an end-to-end rush, before getting creamed in the slot, in overtime to finish off a tremendous comeback for the Washington Capitals. The 4-3 win over the Chicago Blackhawks gives the Caps 46 wins and 101 points for the season.

Trailing 3-0 at the start of the third period, Washington scored three times in 2:16, as Chicago coughed up its second three-goal third period lead in as many days. The Caps outshot the Blackhawks 11-1 in the third.

Backstrom made a terrific defensive play in his own end, making up for an earlier mistake, then carried the puck the length of the ice before beating Antii Niemi cleanly, then getting smashed up after the shot.

The super Swede also had the middle goal of the trifecta in the third. Brooks Laich (22) tallied on a power play to start the comeback and Eric Fehr notched his 18th to tie the game and send it to overtime.

And while everyone should be talking about the Caps determination and perseverance in this one to take two points against a very good team in a tough building, all anyone is going to be talking about is, once again, Alex Ovechkin's "recklessness."

At 12:16 of the first period, Ovechkin was forechecking against Chicago's Brian Campbell. Ovechkin hit Campbell behind the goal after he'd played the puck, hitting him in the shoulder/upper back area. Campbell went down hard, shoulder-first, into the end boards and Ovechkin fell over top of him.

Campbell laid on the ice for several moments, was attended to by a trainer, and did not return to the game. Ovechkin was assessed a boarding major and game misconduct.

The play warranted a penalty; the hit/shove was late and unnecessary in my book, and Campbell went hard into the boards.

But the game misconduct, and the subsequent mandatory review by league officials, was overboard. The game announcers, as well as studio hosts Pierre McGuire and Mike Milbury, all thought the game misconduct was uncalled for as well.

There is no automatic suspension, as this major comes far enough after the previous one to not trigger the automatic suspension.

But given Ovechkin's track record (murky enough, at this point), the injury to Campbell (which we don't know the severity of it yet) and the fact that it happened on national television, one can't help but wonder if the Great 8 isn't going to miss some ice time in the near future.

The league's disciplinary arm, led by Collin Campbell, has been taking it hard lately. The incident with Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke not receiving discipline on his blatant elbow to the head of unsuspecting Boston forward Marc Savard will only boost the call for further discipline on Ovechkin.

So the Caps were badly outplayed by Chicago in the first two periods, lost their leader to a questionable call by the on-ice officials, and stormed back to tie, then win, in one of the league's tougher buildings. It's enough to give Caps fans palpitations.

So might Collin Campbell's decision for further discipline against one of the game's brightest stars.

But what can't be debated here is Ovechkin's poor judgment on the play. Chicago's Campbell had already played the puck and had his back to Ovechkin. Ovie has to know only bad things can happen if you hit a player from behind into the boards.

And with the league's ambiguity and haphazard manner of discipline, someone as important to his team as Ovechkin is can't be putting himself in a position to make a bad hit like that. He needs better judgment on that play.

He was quoted after his earlier suspension for the kneeing hit on Carolina's Tim Gleason that he only knows how to play one way and he wasn't going to change.

He needs to rethink the logic in that statement and start to make better judgments about when and how to play physical.

Because with the scattershot justice system in place in the NHL, you never know. Something as innocuous as this hit, if it happened in the playoffs, might turn out to keep him off the ice when his team needs him the most.


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