Capitals' Ovechkin not heading for suspension

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Cheers and Jeers,Sports,Brian McNally
What we have here is a difference of opinion.

Alex Ovechkin left his skates to hit New York defenseman Dan Girardi during in the second period of Saturday's Game 4 of an Eastern Conference semifinal series. From the Rangers' perspective, it was a late hit to the head that deserved a look from the NHL's department of player safety. To the Caps, it was a case of two players protecting themselves from an inevitable hit. It was a penalty on Ovechkin for charging but not worth more than those two minutes.

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's senior vice president of player safety, didn't see the need for a review, according to a league source, and there will be no fine or suspension. Ovechkin was moving right to left, saw the puck around Girardi's feet and leapt. That's an obvious charge -- a play that got Ovechkin suspended for three games after a Jan. 22 hit to the head on Pittsburgh defenseman Zbynek Michalek. In his career, Ovechkin has been suspended three times and fined twice.

"You know, he hit my head a bit there, but I think it was the right call," Girardi said. "I'm not sure what it was, whether it was charging or interference or whatever, but my head's there, and he hits it. But I think he was just playing the game hard."

In Ovechkin's view, he did leave his feet but caught Girardi first in the shoulder. That's a key distinction and one both the league agreed with and television replays supported. So Washington -- unlike Game 4 of the first round against Boston when Nicklas Backstrom was suspended -- will have all of its key pieces for a critical Game 5 on Monday night at Madison Square Garden.

- Brian McNally

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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