The Washington Capitals have a lot to assess after a tough loss late in the season and an injury that could cloud their entire playoff prospects.
Alex Ovechkin was injured early in the third period of a 4-3 penalty shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night, crashing into the boards and being ruled out with an upper-body injury. As a result, his teammates built up and squandered a two-goal lead to miss out on a great opportunity to move up the rankings.
Ovechkin’s uncertain status is the most alarming situation facing the Capitals with the playoffs starting in just over a week.
“I haven’t spoken to the coach yet, so we’ll do an evaluation,” coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ll get an evaluation and see where he is.”
Ovechkin tripped over the stick of Toronto goalie Erik Kallgren after failing to score on a breakaway attempt. Her left arm and his shoulder made contact with the boards, and the 36-year-old remained on the ice for several seconds as the arena fell silent.
“I think he skidded against my cane and tripped over it, so I didn’t mean to trip him,” Kallgren said. “Obviously he was frustrated, but I didn’t want to trip him up. I didn’t want to cause him an injury, so I hope he’s okay.”
CLOCK | Kerfoot scores the winner of the shootout:
Before he could get medical attention, Ovechkin got to his feet and skated off the ice without his cane. He shouted to the referees that the play was not called.
The consistently durable Russian superstar usually shakes off minor injuries and remains on the bench, as he did earlier in the night when he took a hit to his right shin. But Ovechkin went down the tunnel this time and did not return.
“I’ve never met anybody tougher than that guy,” said Washington winger TJ Oshie, who scored and another possible goal was ruled out by a challenge from the coach. “We all hope he’s okay. I just talked to him and I think he’s going to be okay. It’s always scary to see the ‘Big 8’ go down and lie on the ice. He’s a tough guy. But if there was someone, he would do it.” he imagines that he would not lose more time than he needs, they would be ‘8’.
The Capitals let go of a two-goal lead they built shortly after Ovechkin left the game in obvious pain. They walked away with just one point after Toronto’s Alex Kerfoot scored to end the seven-round shootout.
Washington had a chance to move into third place in the Metropolitan Division with three games left in the regular season after the rival Pittsburgh Penguins fell to Philadelphia earlier that day. A botched power play in OT cost the Capitals after the Maple Leafs were called out by too many men on the ice.
“It’s better that it happened now than in a week, but it’s a frustrating loss,” said Marcus Johansson, who scored his third goal since rejoining the Capitals at the trade deadline. “I think we all wanted this one. We’ll learn from it and move on.”
Ilya Mikheyev scored in the third period to cut Toronto’s deficit in half, and Jason Spezza tied the score with 57.3 seconds left. Kallgren won his first NHL shootout after making 34 saves in regulation and overtime.
Illya Lyubushkin also scored in the first half for the Maple Leafs, who inched closer to home court advantage in the first round.
Toronto is ready to open against the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning or the Boston Bruins. The Capitals could still face the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes or New York Rangers in the first round.
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