WASHINGTON – Alex Ovechkin was injured, and the Washington Capitals missed a major opportunity to move up in the standings by blowing a lead and losing 4-3 in a shootout 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 status moving forward was not immediately clear.
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.
As disappointing as it was for the Capitals not to beat the Leafs, losing Ovechkin could be a much bigger deal moving forward.
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 the 36-year-old remained on the ice for several seconds while the arena went silent.
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 his status is unclear with the start of the playoffs just over a week away.
Not long after Ovechkin exited 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 OT. Ilya Lyubushkin also scored in the first period for the Maple Leafs, who inched closer to wrapping up home-ice advantage in the first round.
Toronto is set to open against either the back-to-back 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 got the night off for rest. ... Defenseman Jake Muzzin missed a sixth consecutive game with an undisclosed injury. ... Toronto rookie of the year candidate Michael Bunting was out after getting injured Saturday night at Florida. Coach Sheldon Keefe said Bunting woke up feeling better, but the team still did not have an expected time frame for the forward’s return.
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 with former coach Barry Trotz’s team.
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