There was an interesting quote from Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News after Game 3 on Monday night about Caps star winger Alex Ovechkin.
They were talking about the game-winning goal scored with 6:25 left when McDonagh nicely kept a puck inside the New York offensive zone and stepped around Ovechkin. He pushed a pass to teammate Mats Zuccarello, who found Rick Nash behind the net. His pass in front was tipped home by Derek Stepan.
“[Stepan] got pressure, so he didn’t get the puck in my wheelhouse, and I kind of caught it off-center,” McDonagh told the Daily News. “And then I was seeing Ovi standing straight-legged, like he was tired, so I tried to go back against him and keep the play alive. That was great passing by [Zuccarello and Nash], and Stepan goes to the net. That was a huge goal.”
That’s not exactly inflammatory stuff. McDonagh used “like he was tired” and not something far stronger. He may have been referring to Monday night only. Ovechkin did play 22:07, the most minutes so far during this playoff series, and he didn’t exactly fight back into the play when McDonagh stepped around him. Washington coach Adam Oates even put him out with the fourth line for 25 seconds with 8:38 left in the second period. That was in response to the amount of penalties the Caps had taken that left their non-penalty killers stapled to the bench for much of the game. Ovechkin had played 19:30 in Game 1 and 20:22 in Game 2.
To be fair, though, Ovechkin topped that 22:07 number 16 times during the regular season. The Rangers aren’t tiring him out. Washington thought it could do the same thing to McDonagh during their playoff series with New York last spring given the huge minutes he and defensive partner Dan Girardi were playing. It never happened. Oates said on Tuesday that conditioning is among the last worries on his mind at this time of year. Guys have played themselves into shape even in a lockout-shortened season where that wasn’t the case early.
“I don’t think [Ovechkin] was tired,” Oates said. “I think that I didn’t do a good enough job getting him in his rhythm probably because of penalties.”
Local media had requested to speak with Ovechkin, but he wasn’t made available to reporters during the team’s off-day press conferences on Tuesday at its Manhattan hotel. So we’ll ask at the morning skate on Wednesday before Game 4.