In his first fight since 2010, Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin landed several hard blows to knock out Carolina Hurricanes rookie Andrei Svechnikov in the first period of Monday’s first-round playoff game. Svechnikov remained down on the ice after the bout and had to be helped to the dressing room. He was later ruled out for the game.
Svechnikov challenged Ovechkin to the fight after the two exchanged slashes roughly 11 minutes into the game. Ovechkin agreed to the bout, dropping his gloves. Ovechkin is 40 pounds heavier than Svechnikov. This was just the fourth fight of Ovechkin’s career and his first in the playoffs.
“First of all, I hope he’s okay,” Ovechkin said. “I’m not a big fighter, and he’s the same. He asked me to fight and said, ‘Let’s go.’ I hope he’s okay. You don’t want to see a guy get hurt or something.”
Hurricanes Coach Rod Brind’Amour implied after the game that Ovechkin shouldn’t have accepted the fight.
“It’s a little bit tough because I just heard Ovi talk about it. He said our guy challenged him,” he said. "So if that’s the case, it’s a little different. If you watch the video, [Ovechkin] slashes him twice ... then Svech gets him back. I don’t know if there’s words exchanged, but one guy’s gloves comes off way first — and that’s Ovi, not our guy.
"So it’s a little bit frustrating because he got hurt. It’s his first fight. He’s played 90 games. He’s never fought in his life, and I’m pretty sure Ovi knew that. So that stuff bothers me.”
Svechnikov, a 19-year-old Russian scoring winger, had said earlier in the series that Ovechkin is someone he looked up to as a kid. The No. 2 pick in the 2018 draft played in every game for the Hurricanes in the regular season, scoring 20 goals and adding 17 assists. He had two goals in Game 1 of this series and an assist in Game 2.
“I kept thinking about him the whole game," Carolina defenseman Dougie Hamilton said. “I just hated seeing that. I just hated the whole part of it, just something you never want to see. I just feel so bad for him, and hopefully he gets better soon.”
Said Washington goaltender Braden Holtby: “He’s a kid that takes a lot of cheap shots and that kind of thing. It was playoff hockey. But the biggest thing is we didn’t respond very well after it. We kind of wasted that energy that he created.”
If any team got momentum from the fight, it was the Hurricanes, who dominated the Capitals in a 5-0 win in Game 3. Washington still has a 2-1 series lead, but the team wasted an opportunity with Carolina down two forwards for most of the game. In addition to Svechnikov going down, Micheal Ferland suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury in the first period.
Ovechkin has done a little bit of everything to start the series, scoring a goal in Game 1, setting up two in Game 2 and delivering 15 hits across the three contests. Don’t expect to see him fighting again anytime soon.
“It’s not like I was expecting him to get beat up or anything,” Capitals defenseman John Carlson said. "I wouldn’t challenge him to fight.”
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