WASHINGTON — There’s much for the Washington Capitals to evaluate after a tough loss late in the season and an injury that could cloud their entire playoff outlook.
Alex Ovechkin was injured early in the third period of a 4-3 shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Sunday night, crashing into the boards and getting ruled out with an upper-body injury. In the aftermath of that, his teammates built and blew a two-goal lead to miss a major opportunity to move up the standings.
Ovechkin’s uncertain status is the most alarming situation facing the Capitals with the playoffs beginning in just over a week.
“I haven’t talked to the trainer yet, so we’ll get an evaluation on him,” tight-lipped coach Peter Laviolette said. “We’ll get an evaluation and see where he’s at.”
Ovechkin tripped over Toronto goaltender Erik Kallgren‘s stick after failing to score on a breakaway attempt. His left arm and shoulder made contact with the boards, and he remained on the ice for several seconds while the arena went silent.
“I think he skated into my stick and tripped on it, so, it was not my intention to trip him,” Kallgren said. “Obviously he was frustrated, but I didn’t I mean to trip him. I didn’t mean to cause an injury, so I hope he’s fine.”
Before he could get medical attention, Ovechkin got to his feet and skated off the ice without his stick. He yelled at officials about no penalty being called on the play.
The consistently durable Russian superstar usually shakes off minor injuries and stays on the bench, as he did earlier in the night when he took a puck off his right shin. But Ovechkin went right down the tunnel this time and did not return.
“I’ve never met anyone tougher than that guy,” said Washington winger T.J. Oshie, who scored and had another would-be goal taken off the board by a coach’s challenge. “We all hope he’s fine. I just talked to him and I think he’ll be all right. It’s always scary seeing ‘Big 8’ go down and lay on the ice. He’s a tough guy. But if there was anyone I would imagine wouldn’t miss any more time than he needs to, it’d be ‘8.”’
The Capitals coughed up a two-goal lead they build not long after Ovechkin left the game in obvious pain. They left with just a point after Toronto’s Alex Kerfoot scored to end the seven-round shootout.
Washington had the chance to move into third place in the Metropolitan Division with three games left to play in the regular season after the rival Pittsburgh Penguins lost at Philadelphia earlier in the day. An unsuccessful power play in OT cost the Capitals after the Maple Leafs were called for too many men on the ice.
Ovechkin ranks fourth in the NHL this season with 50 goals. His 780 goals rank third on the career list behind only Wayne Gretzky and Gordie Howe.
Throughout his career, Ovechkin has shown remarkable durability, even now at age 36. The only two games he missed so far this season were for 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 start May 2.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.