Alex Ovechkin injured early in the third inning of the 4-3 penalty shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night, hitting the board and disqualified with an upper body injury. In the aftermath, his teammates built and blew up a two-goal lead to miss a huge opportunity to move up the standings.
Ovechkin’s uncertain status is the most troubling case facing the capitals with playoffs starting in just over a week.
“I haven’t spoken to the coach yet, so we’ll get him an evaluation. We’ll get an evaluation and see where he is,” said die-hard coach Peter Laviollette.
Ovechkin tripped over Toronto goalkeeper Eric Calgren’s baton after failing to score in a breakaway attempt. His left arm and shoulder touched the boards, and he remained on the ice for several seconds while silence reigned over the arena.
Calgren said, “I think he skated on my stick and tripped on it, so I didn’t intend to trip him. He was obviously frustrated, but I didn’t mean to trip him. I didn’t mean to cause an injury, so I hope he’s okay.”
Before he could get medical attention, Ovechkin got to his feet and skated without a stick. He shouted at the officials about the lack of punishment for the play.
The permanent Russian star usually recovers from minor injuries and stays on the bench, as he did earlier in the night when he took a disk from his right leg. But Ovechkin went down the tunnel this time and did not return.
“I’ve never met anyone stronger than this guy,” said Washington winger TJ O’Shea, who scored and had another potential goal off the board due to a coach’s challenge. “We all hope he’s OK. I just spoke to him and I think he’s going to be OK. It’s always scary to see a ‘Big 8’ go down and lie on the ice. He’s a tough guy. But if anyone is out there I’ll imagine he won’t miss you.” Any more time than he needs to, it would be an “8.”
The Capitals took a two-goal advantage up front shortly after Ovechkin left the match in palpable pain. They were left with just one point after Toronto’s Alex Kervut scored to end a seven-round penalty shootout.
Washington had the opportunity to move up to third in the D.C. Division with three games remaining to play in the regular season after the Pittsburgh Penguins rival lost to Philadelphia earlier in the day. The OT’s failed strength game cost the capitals after the Maple Leafs called in too many men on the ice.
Ovechkin is fourth in the NHL this season with 50 goals. His 780 goals ranked him third on the careers list behind only Wayne Gretzky and Jordi Howe.
Throughout his career, Ovechkin has shown remarkable toughness, even now at the age of 36. The only two games he has missed so far this season have been due to COVID-19 protocol reasons.
Washington has three games left in the regular season: two against the New York Islanders and one at the Rangers, before the playoffs begin on May 2.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.