WASHINGTON (AP) — Alex Ovechkin was injured and the Washington Capitals missed a big chance to move up the standings by blowing a lead and losing 4-3 on penalties Sunday night to the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Ovechkin crashed hard into the boards early in the third period and was ruled out with what the team called an upper-body injury. His future status was not immediately clear.
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.
As disappointing as it was for the Capitals not to beat the Leafs, losing Ovechkin could be a much bigger problem down the road.
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.
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 his status is unclear with the start of the playoffs just over a week away.
Not long after Ovechkin left the game, Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson scored to make it 3-1. Ilya Mikheyev scored to cut the Leafs’ deficit in half, and Jason Spezza tied it with 57.3 seconds left to force overtime.
Kallgren won his first NHL shootout after making 34 saves in regulation and overtime. Ilya Lyubushkin also scored in the first period for the Maple Leafs, who inched closer to home-field 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.
NOTES: Maple Leafs captain John Tavares and defenseman Timothy Liljegren had the night off to rest. … Defenseman Jake Muzzin missed a sixth straight game with an undisclosed injury. … Toronto rookie of the year candidate Michael Bunting was out after being injured Saturday night in Florida. Coach Sheldon Keefe said Bunting woke up feeling better, but the team did not yet have a timetable for the forward’s return.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
Maple Leafs: Return home to face the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday in their penultimate game of the regular season.
Capitals: Host the New York Islanders on Tuesday night in the first half of a home-and-home series featuring former coach Barry Trotz’s team.
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