By Tarik El-Bashir
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, November 2, 2009
The Washington Capitals suffered their second straight overtime defeat Sunday, this one a 5-4 decision against the Columbus Blue Jackets. But it was the loss they suffered early in the second period that might prove to be much more significant.
Alex Ovechkin was hurt during a scrum and missed the final 33 minutes 50 seconds of the game. Ovechkin said afterward that he had suffered an upper-body injury and that he was day-to-day.
The two-time MVP refused to say how the injury occurred or where he was hurting. And when asked if he feared the injury to be serious, he said, "I don't know."
Ovechkin did not appear to be in pain when he spoke to reporters in the dressing room wearing a suit.
It's believed that Ovechkin suffered the injury during a shoving match with Jason Chimera, then left the game after landing on his left arm at 6:50 of the second period after bumping into Raffi Torres in open ice.
"I can't tell you how I got hurt," Ovechkin said. "It's day-to-day, but just in case I didn't go back on the ice."
The Capitals' next game is Wednesday in New Jersey. Whether Ovechkin will be able to suit up for the game isn't known, but his knack for playing through pain is well known. Despite being one of the game's biggest hitters, Ovechkin has only missed two games because of injury (last season because of a bruised heel and in 2005-06 because of a mild groin muscle pull.)
Sunday's contest game was physical from the outset, with Ovechkin taking the leading role as usual. He blasted Chimera with a body check near the Capitals' bench, incensing the agitator and setting the stage for the confrontation that led to Ovechkin's injury.
During stoppage in play, Chimera bumped Ovechkin as the two passed near the benches. Ovechkin responded with a two-handed shove, igniting a multiplayer fracas. At one point Jared Boll reached in and grabbed Ovechkin.
The Capitals' winger appeared to be favoring his left arm or shoulder as he sat in the penalty box for roughing. When he came out for his next shift, he collided with Torres and went straight to the dressing room.
"It was just a moment of the game," Ovechkin said of his confrontation with Chimera. "Nothing happened. [Chimera] hit me, I hit him. It was a little battle over there but nothing happen."
Several Capitals said they wanted to rally around their fallen star. Instead, they blew two third-period leads.
Quintin Laing, in his first game back from swine flu, appeared to be the Capitals' hero on a night when they could have used one when he took a pass from David Steckel and beat Steve Mason from the slot with 3:26 left to play to put the Capitals ahead, 4-3.
It should have been enough. It wasn't.
The Blue Jackets came right back on Torres's second goal in the span of 6:01 with only 22.4 seconds remaining in regulation. With an extra attacker on the ice and a slashing penalty to Mike Knuble just expiring, Torres redirected a crossing pass from Derick Brassard past José Theodore (27 saves).
Then R.J. Umberger scored his second goal of the game in overtime, again on the power play. With defenseman Brian Pothier in the penalty box for interference, Umberger scored at 1:45 to clinch the win.
"Yeah, well when you take a stupid penalty, that's what happens when you take stupid penalties," Boudreau said. "Selfish penalties, they cost you all the time. You take a team penalty and you work your [butt] off like they did . . . but when you take a selfish penalty, it doesn't end real good."
Boudreau did not specify which penalty -- Knuble's or Pothier's -- he was referring to. But Knuble shouldered much of the blame for the way things ended.
"In the last two minutes, I can't take a penalty on a backcheck," Knuble said. "It's kind of brain cramp there. It's a dumb play at the wrong time. That's what's frustrating -- it's something I can control."
Earlier in the third period, Brooks Laich rallied the Capitals from a 2-1 deficit with a pair of goals 2:08 apart. It was Laich's second two-goal game of the season.
"We have to be better disciplined as a close [team] and learn how to control the lead if we want to win hockey games," Laich said. "If we want to be an elite team, that has to happen. We've given away too many points this year."
Knuble was in the penalty box for Columbus's first power-play goal as well. With 59 seconds remaining in the second period, Umberger scored into an empty net after Rick Nash (goal, primary assist) fired an end-around dump-in that hit a flaw in the baseboard and kicked the puck directly into the slot. Theodore had gone behind the net to intercept the dump-in.
"We were rallying around Ovie," Boudreau said. "In the third period, we out-worked them and we probably deserved a little bit better fate. But we shoot ourselves in the foot."
The Capitals announced after the game that they will not have an update on Ovechkin's status until Tuesday, since the players are expected to receive Monday off after playing four games in six nights.