RALEIGH, N.C. – The Washington Capitals won the game but may have lost their star.
Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and an assist while Eric Fehr added a goal and an assist, leading the Capitals past the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 on Monday night in a game Alex Ovechkin left early with an apparent knee injury.
Ovechkin was hurt with 7:55 left in the first period when he appeared to initiate a knee-to-knee collision with Carolina’s Tim Gleason as the defenceman attempted to take the puck out of the Hurricanes’ zone.
Ovechkin – who was given a 5-minute major penalty for kneeing and a game misconduct – was down on the ice for several minutes before he was helped off, and grimaced while he was bent over at the waist.
“I’m way more concerned about his injury (than a possible suspension),” Washington coach Bruce Boudreau said. “Whatever happens, happens. And I don’t think it’s a deservable thing. Obviously any player on our team, if they’ve got an injury, we’re way more concerned about that.”
Team officials said the injury would be evaluated overnight and that any further information wouldn’t come until Tuesday morning.
It was the first meeting between the Southeast Division rivals this season. Washington is on a three-game winning streak and sits atop the Eastern Conference standings, while Carolina has lost five straight and has the worst record in the league.
Both Ovechkin and Gleason were helped off the ice following the collision of their right knees, but Gleason returned during the power play.
Ovechkin is leading the Capitals with 18 goals and 30 points, and is also leading the team in penalty minutes with 44. It was his second game misconduct penalty in three games.
“Ovechkin’s injury was bad, of course,” Backstrom said. “He’s creating so many opportunities to score for us. But we found another way to win today, and we’re happy about it. When the best player goes out, it’s a challenge for the other guys.”
Carolina defenceman Joe Corvo was also injured in the first period after scoring the Hurricanes’ first goal. Corvo scored at 4:35 of the first, but was cut on the leg in a collision with the Capitals’ Karl Alzner less than a minute later and taken to the hospital for assessment.
“He’s going to be OK,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said of Corvo. “The extent of his injury, we won’t know until a doctor gets in there and looks at it and finds out exactly how deep it is and what it caught. He was in some pain on the ice, and he’s fine now.
“Gleason made a good move and (Ovechkin) caught him with his knee. However you want to define the play, it was dangerous for both players.”
Jose Theodore had 35 saves for the Capitals, while Michael Leighton stopped 30 shots for the Hurricanes.
Carolina took the early lead on Corvo’s goal, when he took Tuomo Ruutu’s pass on the right doorstep and used his backhand to fake the puck past Theodore. Eric Staal also assisted on the goal.
Washington took little time to even the score, with Backstrom receiving Ovechkin’s pass into the low slot and poking it past Leighton at 6:11.
The Capitals went up 2-1 at even strength with 2:40 left in the first as Fehr scored from the left circle with Backstrom assisting.
Washington stretched its lead to 3-1 with about 5 minutes left in the second, when Backstrom scored from Fehr as Leighton had left the crease.
Matt Cullen scored for the Hurricanes with a Carolina empty net with 15 seconds left.
NOTES: Gleason received a 10-minute misconduct penalty late in the third period. … Washington was without Alexander Semin (wrist) Boyd Gordon (back), Shaone Morrisonn (upper body) and Tom Poti (upper body). … Carolina’s Scott Walker (upper body) missed his eighth straight game while Chad LaRose (lower body) missed his second straight.