WASHINGTON, D.C. -- New York Rangers defenseman Dan Girardi said Capitals star Alex Ovechkin hit him in the head first during a second-period collision, although Ovechkin disagreed when asked about the incident after the Caps' 3-2 win Saturday.
With a loose puck at his feet, Ovechkin left his skates and leveled Girardi with a high hit that earned him a charging minor at 12:17 of the second period in Game 4. According to multiple sources, Ovechkin is unlikely to face league discipline for the hit.
"I think he hit my head a bit there, but I think it was the right call," Girardi said after the game. "My head's kinda there and he hits it. I think he's just playing the game hard, but I don't know."
When asked whether Ovechkin hit him in the head or shoulder first, an important distinction for the NHL's Department of Player Safety in regards to Rule 48.1 (which defines an "illegal check to the head"), Girardi said:
"He hit me in the head first."
Ovechkin defended the hit and said he was the one bracing for impact on the play.
"I just missed the puck. I tried to kick the puck and I saw he was coming, so I just got to protect myself," he told reporters.
When asked if he felt he hit Girardi in the head, Ovechkin responded: "No, I think it was the shoulder."
Capitals coach Dale Hunter offered this analysis: "It was incidental contact, where both of them were looking down and they hit each other."
Rangers coach John Tortorella's take? Who knows? He declined to answer a general question about the officiating and walked out of his news conference after about 30 seconds.
Girardi declined to weigh in on whether he felt Ovechkin deserved a suspension for the hit.
"I'm not the judge of that," he said. "You guys can make your comments about that. I don't know. They called a penalty on it, that's all I know."
Girardi did not play on the resulting power play but did not miss a regular defensive shift after the play.
"He's a big guy, he hits hard, but I'm feeling good," said Girardi, who finished with 22:46 in ice time.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.