The Washington Capitals
got two goals from Nicklas Backstrom and 38 saves from Jose Theodore, making his first start in over two weeks, to beat Southeast Division foe Carolina
on the road, 3-1.
But more importantly to the Capitals
(16-5-6) was an injury to their two-time reigning Hart Trophy winner, Alex Ovechkin.
Ovechkin, trying to check Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason, sustained an apparent right knee injury when the two collided knee-to-knee in the first period.
The team released a statement to say that Ovechkin will not have an MRI tonight, but rather wait until the swelling goes down to get a better assessment of the injury.
The rugged left winger was observed by members of the press walking, apparently without crutches or a brace, on his way to the team bus after the game.
After Backstrom was wiped out by a big hit moments earlier, Ovechkin lined up Gleason for a hard check. Gleason managed to move his upper body to avoid the hit high, but their lower bodies collided, with Ovechkin taking the brunt of the contact. Gleason returned to the ice just a couple of shifts later.
Ovechkin was assessed a kneeing major penalty and game misconduct on the play, and the team managed to kill off the five-minute major. Coming on the heels of his recent boarding penalty against Buffalo
last week, the league will have to review the hit and consider disciplinary action.
This type of play will only go to further reinforce some people's opinion that Ovechkin plays with a reckless, irresponsible, abandon. And as far as intention from the type of play that it was, much more can be read into this one than the hit against Buffalo, where he hit the player shoulder-to-shoulder.
What we do know about Ovechkin's style of play is that he is relentless, willing, and relishes the opportunity to throw his body around in a rough, tough, aggressive manner. And there are even those that say that Ovechkin plays "dirty."
Regardless of opinion, this is his second game misconduct in less than two weeks, prompting an automatic review and possible suspension.
But the disciplinary measures are secondary right now compared to the concerns about Ovechkin's health.
Meanwhile, Theodore played a magnificent game, especially early. Carolina got 13 shots on goal in the game's first six minutes, and the veteran goalie, who had not played since Nov. 14, was equal to the task.
Backstrom had a big game as well, netting two goals. He tipped in a nice feed from Ovechkin before the injury, and had a nice back-hander to beat Michael Leighton, who was badly out of position.
Eric Fehr buried his seventh goals of the season as well, completing a two-on-one with Backstrom.
So the Washington Capitals organization and faithful will hold their collective breath overnight as everyone awaits Ovechkin's date with the team orthopedist tomorrow morning. It's impossible to speculate at this point what the extent of the injury is until the results of his examination are released.
But Ovechkin, one of the toughest players in the NHL
pound-for-pound, was delicately assisted from the ice, clearly hanging his right leg limp, unable to put any of his weight on the leg.
Ovechkin's injury, and the circumstances surrounding it, are matters that go beyond the Capitals community. The two-time MVP is one of the faces on the NHL, and expected to carry the torch for the Russian Olympic team in Vancouver
His absence for an extended period of time would hurt the league and put a serious dent in Russia's Olympic hopes.
It's safe to say that the world's hockey community will anxiously await the Capitals' team doctor's diagnosis.