Washington Capitals coach Adam Oates was known as an honest player – and that trait hasn’t left him since stepping behind an NHL bench.
Flyers forward Harry Zolnierczyk was whistled for a 5-minute major “kneeing” penalty with under 30 seconds to play in Wednesday’s 4-1 shellacking after laying out Washington’s Mathieu Perreault in open ice. Video of the hit is below.
Oates’ star player, Alex Ovechkin, took exception to the hit and tangled with Zac Rinaldo.
“It was like, 30 seconds left, 4-1 lead,” Ovechkin said. “Why you have to kill the guy? It was dirty.”
Ovechkin’s coach didn’t feel the same way, more or less saying Ovechkin’s opinion perfectly describes his entire, unimpressive game on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it’s dirty at all,” Oates said. “I think it’s a product of our whole game. There is 30 seconds left, the game’s over, and ‘Matty’ thought he could stickhandle through the team. It’s not what we do, all of us. The atmosphere clearly dropped in the game, it was over and you think you can bang one through the entire team. You just can't. It'll never work that way.”
Zolnierczyk’s hit will be reviewed by the NHL’s Department of Player Safety, as all questionable hits are automatically, though it’s probably unlikely he will receive any supplementary discipline. His knee seemed connect with Perreault’s thigh, first of all, and it clearly wasn’t a targeted knee shot.
Oates said Perreault was not injured, and teammates suggested he suffered a charley horse on the collision.
The only questionable part of Zolnierczyk’s hit was that his skates make have left the ice, but it’s not even clear as to whether they are launched after making contact.
Garbage time or not, it's tough to blame Zolnierczyk's effort. He's a 25-year-old role player trying to earn a steady NHL job and was scratched in 4 out of the Flyers' last 7 games.
“I thought it was just a good, hard, hockey hit,” Peter Laviolette said.
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