Alexei Kovalev says he’s a scapegoat for Senators troubles

Alex Kovalev is not very happy. He hasn’t had a point in six straight games, the Senators are struggling to get their act together, and head coach Cory Clouston has moved him to the team’s fourth line to punish him for poor play. The 37 year-old has seven goals and seven assists this year for Ottawa and while 14 points doesn’t sound impressive, it’s good for fourth on the team in scoring, just four points behind Daniel Alfredsson for the team lead.

With the team unable to generate any consistent offense and the losses piling up, Ottawa is in a bad way and Kovalev isn’t pleased with being moved down in the lineup. He’s so upset that he’s calling Clouston out saying he’s being made an example of. Bruce Garrioch of The Ottawa Sun gets the grumpy words from Kovalev.

Frustrated with his demotion to the fourth line, Kovalev went public with his anger at the club’s game-day skate Friday afternoon. Kovalev said he feels like he’s being singled out as the scapegoat for the underachieving club.

“It looks like it right now,” said Kovalev. “There’s nothing I can do about it. I’m not the only one not playing well and he decides to pick me. It’s been happening my whole career. I accept that.”

In his first public comments since being moved to the fourth line earlier this week, Kovalev denied he has asked to be dealt.

“Sometimes it’s hard because you always find (yourself) as the goat to blame it on,” said Kovalev. “Like I said, I’m used to it, it’s been happening my whole career. I accept that.”

This certainly doesn’t sound like a pleasant situation and with the team playing as poorly as they are, it’s making a bad situation worse. As for Clouston, he says that there is no scapegoating going on and that he just wants better play from Kovalev. Kovalev, however, was a bit more coy about who he thinks the problem is in Ottawa. Garrioch with more goods from Kovalev.

“I just don’t understand because sometimes when you start playing well, and everything goes well, they start brain-picking again,” said Kovalev. “I don’t know why it keeps happening and why they don’t just let me play like I can. I don’t know if it’s some kind of jealousy or something else.”

Jealousy, hurt feelings, and even more hurting egos. A team in turmoil is never a good thing for the home fans, but for the beat writers and curious onlookers it makes for great theater. If Kovalev can use this supposed slight to motivate him into scoring goals again that’s great for Ottawa. If he sulks and the situation festers and grows, Kovalev might just find his way out of town whether he wants to go or not.

Ovechkin shrugs off Caps’ Game 1 loss in very Ovechkin way

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You know, it happens. Maybe not always in those exact words.

The Washington Capitals carried the play during portions of their 3-2 Game 1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and even down 1-0 in the series, just about every player seemed happy with their overall game.

(Granted, Braden Holtby picked apart two of the three goals he allowed, and so on.)

Still, Alex Ovechkin shrugged off the disappointment in a way that wasn’t quite Rated R, but probably ranks in the PG-13 range:

The penalty element is interesting, though.

When asked after the loss about the lack of power plays, Matt Niskanen merely offered a “no comment.”

The Penguins experienced some sprawling moments, yet they avoided taking a penalty each time. Often, when a team carries long sequences of play, they’ll go on the PP (especially with home-ice advantage) … but not the Capitals in Game 1.

via Natural Stat Trick

It’s a situation to watch as the Capitals hope to even the series against the Penguins with Game 2 coming on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. (You can watch online, via the NBC Sports App and follow the livestream here).

Holtby takes blame for two big goals in Caps’ loss to Pens

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It’s just about a consensus that the Washington Capitals believed that they generally played a strong game despite falling 3-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Braden Holtby‘s teammates likely wouldn’t agree with his assessment that the Game 1 loss is on his shoulders, but the perennial Vezina candidate took the blame for Sidney Crosby‘s first goal of the night and Nick Bonino‘s game-winner.

Noting that the Penguins are a dangerous rush team – making them a different threat than the Toronto Maple Leafs – Holtby believes that he should have had his glove in position to stop the 1-0 goal. He said he’s capable of making such a stop and “will next time.” Check out Crosby’s two goals below, with Holtby having a beef with the first one:

It’s really difficult to place too much blame on Holtby for giving up Nick Bonino’s game-winner, as it seemed like a great rush play that few goalies would be able to stop.

Judge for yourself in the highlights:

The Penguins were ultimately able to take a 1-0 series lead, but the Capitals seem capable of shrugging off questions about frustrations, even with naysayers starting to gain confidence in claiming that there will be more than the same.

If Washington’s going to get over this big hurdle, Holtby is likely to be a big part in doing so.

Fleury, Penguins hang on for Game 1 win against Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off a 3-2 Game 1 win against the Washington Capitals, but Thursday’s thriller probably prompted a sigh of relief.

(Washington, meanwhile, might have uttered a sigh at such unpleasantly familiar feelings.)

The first period ended 0-0 in part thanks to Jake Guentzel‘s sprawling “kick save.” Business really picked up in the second after Sidney Crosby raced off to two quick goals, only for Alex Ovechkin to give Washington a shot thanks to a booming goal and some physical play.

It sure felt like this one might head to overtime, especially after Evgeny Kuznetsov was tying things up and flapping his arms like wings. That was not to be, however, as Nick Bonino took advantage of a pretty area pass to beat Braden Holtby for the decisive tally.

Now, it was only decisive because Marc-Andre Fleury was at the top of his game. Oh, and also because the Penguins did a collective Guentzel impression in frantically denying a tying tally.

Makes you want to wipe some sweat from your brow, eh?

The Capitals dominated by just about every statistical measure … except, of course, goals on the scoreboard. Pittsburgh will gladly take that 1-0 series lead, then.

Expect a desperate Washington team in Game 2, which airs at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can watch it online and via the NBC Sports App (click here for the livestream link).

Karlsson makes difference for Senators vs. Lundqvist, Rangers

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Swedish superstars Henrik Lundqvist and Erik Karlsson were both stupendous in Game 1 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators.

Still, it was Karlsson’s game-winning goal (from a seemingly impossible angle) against Lundqvist that made the difference as the Senators beat the Rangers 2-1 on Thursday. With that, the Senators are up 1-0 in the series.

That Karlsson goal really deserves a special look.

Whether you blame that 2-1 tally on Lundqvist or not, the Rangers would be foolish to do anything but praise their red-hot franchise goalie. He stopped all 21 Senators shots in the first period and ultimately made 41 out of 43 stops in defeat.

Craig Anderson was strong in his own right, mind you, stopping 34 out of 35 shots (including all 28 at even-strength) to help Ottawa take that tight contest.

Anderson’s strong play highlights the fact that Rangers – Senators doesn’t merely come down to Lundqvist vs. Karlsson … but even so, both Swedish superstars really did stand out in this one.

Game 2 airs on NBC at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday. You can also watch online and via the NBC Sports App; click here for the livestream link.