NEW YORK --
With Dan Girardi
still lying prone on the ice not far from him, Alex Ovechkin
looked up and saw Brandon Dubinsky
skating in his direction. Ovechkin didn't know if Dubinsky was coming in from the other side of the ice to spray a few choice words in his direction, for a quick twirl to check on his fallen teammate, or for some fisticuffs.
He didn't much care either.
Ovechkin had had enough. He had seen enough. He had taken enough abuse. He had reached the end of his rope.
The Capitals were down by four goals at this point in the second period Sunday night, en route to a 7-0 loss at Madison Square Garden, and their captain couldn't take it anymore. He skated right at Dubinsky, tossed his stick aside, threw off his gloves, wrapped his arms around Dubinsky's head and in a split second they were fighting.
Dubinsky got in two good uppercuts before wrestling Ovechkin down to the ice. Ovechkin, whose last fight was four years and 10 days ago (Dec. 2, 2006), immediately skated to the penalty box, where he sat and stewed for the next five minutes.
When he returned to the bench, he sat staring straight ahead, his helmet tilted up just enough so his vision wasn't clouded by his tinted visor.
"It was just a moment in the game. Nothing special happened." -- Alex Ovechkin on dropping the gloves with Brandon Dubinsky
"It was just a moment in the game," Ovechkin said inside the solemn visitor's dressing room after the Capitals dropped their sixth-straight game. "Nothing special happened."
He may well be downplaying "the moment."
"I saw a lot of emotion and frustration," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau
said. "He did what great leaders do, try to get their team going."
It didn't work on this night.
The Rangers scored on a 2-on-1 shorthanded rush just 69 seconds after the fight to make it 5-0. They piled on two more goals in the third period, and Ovechkin didn't touch the ice again after getting struck in the right knee with Alexander Semin
's wrist shot with about 10 minutes to go.
He would have been able to return if the game was close.
"I thought Nicky (Backstrom) and Alex, those guys played hard, but I wasn't going to embarrass them anymore by putting them on there," Boudreau said.
What has happened to this team during the past 11 days is anybody's guess? Ovechkin, try as he might by dropping the gloves, finishing his checks and playing an all-round physical game, doesn't have an answer.
"I don't know what to say," he said. "We tried. We didn't want to lose. We want to win. I think we didn't have luck. You can see, how many posts did we hit? We still had chances, but we couldn't score."
The Capitals did ring four shots off the iron, including two in the sequence leading up to Ovechkin's hip-to-hip check on Girardi, which led to the fight. But, bad luck is not the reason for this slump and Ovechkin knows it.
"We have to get together," Ovechkin said. "We don't have to say this guy played bad or who makes mistakes; we all make mistakes. I saw a lot of mistakes. We have to keep together like a team, like a group. We don't (usually) have this kind of situation. It's something new for us and a good team fights for it. I think when we're going to win one game everybody is going to forget this."
When will that be?
The Capitals will practice Tuesday and play Anaheim at home on Wednesday, the night HBO's highly anticipated '24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic' debuts.
The angles to that story for Episode 1 couldn't be any different right now.
Pittsburgh has won 12 games in a row and Sidney Crosby
has 36 points during an 18-game point streak.
Washington has lost six in a row and Ovechkin has 2 goals in his past 14 games. The last time the Capitals lost six-straight was at the end of the 2006-07 season. The last time Ovechkin had only 2 goals in a 14-game stretch was…
It's never happened before.
"I think we just have to relax," Ovechkin said. "I know it's huge pressure for us right now. We lost how many games in a row? Six games in a row. I think it's big pressure for players, for coaches, and for trainers. We just have to relax and don't think about the losing streak. We have to think about the win."
Ovechkin gave his effort toward trying to get one Sunday night, but when he has to try to infuse some life into his team by fighting with 30 minutes still left in a game that was getting out of control, well, something is clearly off.
Ovechkin is supposed to ignite the Capitals with goals, not brawls. He hasn't been doing it lately.
"He's had the chances but he hasn't buried them," Boudreau said. "It's new to him so it's probably perplexing I would think."
He has to find a way to get through it. The Capitals need him now maybe more than ever.
"It is unfamiliar territory and I think we have a lot of people feeling sorry for themselves," Boudreau said. "We have to figure out a way to get out of this before it's too late."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl