NEW YORK -- The Washington Capitals finished the regular season with the second-best penalty-killing percentage in the NHL. Just as the top-rated team, the Pittsburgh Penguins, found out two nights prior, taking too many penalties will be costly regardless of PK prowess.
Washington yielded a power-play goal 5:30 into the second period while John Carlson was serving one of eight minor penalties the Capitals were charged with during a 3-2 loss Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
"You can't take seven penalties, be shorthanded seven times or eight, I don't know what it was," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said. "You knew they were going to be antagonistic. We just got to learn how to take it."
Added Matt Hendricks: "I think we took too many penalties. I think they only scored one power-play goal, but you don't always see a direct result or effect from that. I think the guys who are penalty killers are also some of our big-minute guys. They use a lot of energy on the penalty kill and I think it ends up affecting us later in the game."
Boudreau and several Washington players mentioned the plentiful post-whistle scrums as something they need to navigate better. There were several shoving matches in front of Washington goaltender Michal Neuvirth as the Rangers did their best to create energy with the crowd and knock the rookie out of his rhythm.
"Every time after there was something in front of the net and a scrum they were hitting our goalie," Boudreau said. "It just got to a point, you know? They kept warning them not to do it and not to do it. They kept doing it and nothing was done so they kept doing it. Pretty simple."
The Capitals only took one penalty during a post-whistle scrum, but it proved to be a costly one. Carlson and Brian Boyle took matching penalties with 3:15 left in the third period and Brandon Dubinsky was able to tally the game-winning goal during the 4-on-4 play that came because of it.
"There was no reason that Carlson should have gotten involved with Boyle," Boudreau said. "I think after the fourth punch to the head and the third warning, he punched back and then they both went."
Washington took four straight penalties in the second period and spent much of the period trying to create some momentum only to see another guy back in the box. As Hendricks noted, all of that time shorthanded costs energy and eventually can take its toll.
Brooks Laich led the forwards with 5:37 of shorthanded ice time, while Backstrom and Mike Knuble had more than two minutes each and five of the six defensemen skated at least 2:57 with New York on the man advantage.
"We took some penalties that we shouldn't take," Matt Bradley said. "We were getting involved the scrums after the whistle too much. In the playoffs, you kind of just have to suck those things up because you can't afford to go down a man."
Added Backstrom: "I don't know -- I think some of those penalties wasn't penalties."