Alex Ovechkin

Milbury: ‘I’ve never been against Ovechkin’

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One of Alex Ovechkin’s most outspoken critics never doubted the Capitals’ captain could rediscover his superstar form. And now that Ovechkin has done just that, NBC analyst Mike Milbury is happy for him.

But Milbury’s words weren’t very kind on Feb. 27, when he said Ovechkin “should be ashamed of himself” and “embarrassed” for his performance against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Today, Ovechkin is tied with Steven Stamkos for the most goals in the NHL and, not coincidentally, the Caps are a good bet to win the Southeast Division.

“It’s funny, that day [NBC studio host] Liam McHugh asked me if I thought he could turn it around and I said, ‘Yeah, he’s got the physical attributes to be a superstar again,” Milbury told CSN Washington.

“The game in Philly was alarming for the reasons that I illustrated. He seemed lost and who knows why. The lockout; time off; new coach; [Nicklas] Backstrom not playing very well; he’s not playing with Backstrom; they got him playing in a different position. But the fact of the matter was that he was nowhere near what he was capable of being.

“There’s nothing more frustrating for me as a former coach and manager watching a guy with abilities like that to fall short, particularly when it comes to paying attention to detail or mental or physical effort. He was falling short there. I have no idea what happened in the interim but I’m glad for him and for the Capitals that it has. They’re in a much better place with this Alex than the other one. It’s a tribute to him.

“So many people attribute the coaches with the credit, but it’s always the player that has to bear the brunt of the criticism and reap the rewards of success, and whatever he’s doing I applaud him for it. I think it’s great because he was in a dark place a couple months ago.”

Milbury added that he’s “never been against Ovechkin,” but at the time, “it seemed like there was less care than there should have been, whether it was physically or mentally, it looked to me to be both. But God bless him, he’s turned it around and so have the Capitals.”

The next step for Ovechkin, according to Milbury, is to perform in the postseason.

“All great players have to establish themselves as clutch playoff performers if they really want to achieve greatness,” said Milbury. “Last year his ice time was cut in the playoffs and now it’s time he steps up in the playoffs. As Adam Oates said, he’s gotta be the man.”

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Video: Penguins coach takes issue with late, high Orpik hit on Maatta

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The Pittsburgh Penguins have spoken out against a late, high hit that Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik threw on Olli Maatta early in the first period of an eventful Game 2 on Saturday.

Maatta left and didn’t return. He played only 31 seconds, and the Penguins were reduced to five defensemen for a large portion of the game. Orpik was given a minor penalty on the play, but the league’s Department of Player Safety may see it differently.

The hit occurred well after Maatta had gotten rid of the puck. He struggled on his way to the dressing room for further evaluation.

Based on multiple reports, Orpik wasn’t made available to the media following the game, which went to the Penguins as they earned the split on the road.

But the Penguins have taken issue with the hit.

“I thought it was a late hit,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan, as per CSN Mid-Atlantic. “I thought it was a target to his head. I think it’s the type of hit everyone in hockey is trying to remove from the game.”

Game on: Penguins even series with rival Capitals

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The Pittsburgh Penguins will head back home with a split of their second-round series with the rival Washington Capitals.

Former Capitals forward Eric Fehr came back to burn his hold team, as he scored with under five minutes remaining in regulation to help lift the Penguins over Washington with a 2-1 victory in an eventful Game 2 on Saturday. Evgeni Malkin threw the puck toward the net and Fehr was able to re-direct it by Braden Holtby.

Oh, this was an eventful game, indeed.

It started early in the first period with Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik catching Penguins blue liner Olli Maatta with a late and high hit that warranted — at least for now — only a minor penalty for interference. Maatta, clearly in distress following the hit, didn’t play another shift and saw only 31 seconds of ice time in total, as Pittsburgh was reduced to five defensemen for the remainder of the game.

It continued in the third period. Kris Letang was furious after getting called for a trip on Justin Williams, and even more ticked off when the Capitals tied the game on the ensuing power play.

For two periods, the Capitals couldn’t get much going. Only four of their players had registered a shot on goal through 40 minutes, while the Penguins held the edge in that department and held the lead.

Washington came out with more jump in the third period, testing rookie netminder Matt Murray with 14 shots in the final 20 minutes. But the Penguins got the late goal to break the deadlock.

Video: Penguins’ Letang was furious after Capitals tie up Game 2 with power play goal

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Kris Letang watched from the penalty box as the Washington Capitals tied up Game 2 with a power play goal in the third period. The Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman was called for tripping after he appeared to muscle Justin Williams off the puck as he entered the zone.

Letang let his disagreement with the call be known at the time, and was furious after the Capitals capitalized on a goal from Marcus Johansson.

The Capitals started the period down a goal and being outshot 28-10 by the Penguins, who need a win to even the series.

Also, it seems this is worth mentioning:

Video: Hagelin goes top shelf to give Penguins the lead in Game 2

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In their quest to even the series, the Pittsburgh Penguins had done a nice job through two periods of suffocating the Washington Capitals, while gaining the lead on a beautiful goal.

Carl Hagelin took advantage of a vast amount of space that opened up in front of the Washington net, finishing off a nice pass from Nick Bonino, burying his shot just under the cross bar on the glove side of Braden Holtby.

Through two periods, the Penguins were outshooting Washington 28-10. Only four Capitals players — Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Matt Niskanen — had registered shots on goal.