Alex Ovechkin of the Capitals cautioned that he 'didn't play well' in the sweep

Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin laid the blame for his team's opening-round sweep at the hands of the New York Rangers, marking the first time the star winger has gone scoreless in a playoff series.

“It's always tough to lose a series. We had good chances. We didn't score. Our lineup didn't score a lot,” he said after the Rangers' 4-2 victory Sunday night in Washington, DC. Blame me for not playing well.

Ovechkin, 38, played 15:26 in Game 4, his sixth shortest ice time in a playoff game. That's just 3:22 into the first period — 16 seconds less than New York Rangers rookie Matt Rembe.

Ovechkin said after Game 4 that he was healthy in the series.

The sweep marked the first time in Ovech's 15 trips to the Stanley Cup playoffs that he was held scoreless in a series. His five shots on goal were also a career postseason low: while tied for Ovechkin's 19th shot on goal (272) in the regular season, he failed to register a shot in Games 1 and 4 against the Rangers.

It's been a tough series for Ovechin beyond the traditional score sheet. Washington coach Spencer Carberry said his captain was “struggling” after a Game 2 loss to the Rangers that included a crucial Ovechkin turnover on the power play that led to a shorthanded goal that gave New York a 4-2 lead late in the second. Period.

Carberry believed that home ice advantage in Games 3 and 4 could provide Ovechkin with friendly matchups, but the winger couldn't get his offense going.

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A major issue was the Capitals' power play, which was let down by the Rangers' penalty kill. Washington went 0-for-8 in Games 3 and 4 and 2-for-17 in the series.

Ovechkin is eighth in postseason power-play goals (28 in 151 games).

“The power play is a big part of it, and he's not getting opportunities when he's struggling,” Carberry said. “They checked him really tight in there, and every time he got the puck, he had to make a half-second play, which usually involved a stick and some shin pads. I think that played a big role for him in this series.”

But according to the Capitals coach, the bigger issues are how much energy Ovechkin must expend to get the team into the postseason in the final wild-card spot. Ovechkin scored 13 goals in the last 17 games of the season.

“This year, leaning on him in the second half of the year, I think he's done an incredible job of finding his game,” Carberry said. “All season we've had a challenge scoring goals. In the second half [after the trade deadline] It was still challenging. That was a lot, the second half of the year. Especially in the last two weeks every game has been life and death for our team. I felt like it took a lot out of him physically and mentally going into the playoffs.”

Next season will be Ovechkin's 20th season in the NHL. He is 41 goals away from tying Wayne Gretzky's NHL career record.

Throughout his record chase, Ovechkin has been adamant that he wants to play for a Capitals team that contends for the postseason and isn't trying to serve up a quest for history.

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When asked if he was worried this might be his last trip to the playoffs, Ovechkin said, “Hopefully I'm going to get a couple more chances.”

The Rangers, who won the Presidents Trophy for the league's best record, advance to the second round to face the winner of the Carolina Hurricanes vs. the New York Islanders, in which Carolina leads 3–1.

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