Washington Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin left in the first period of Friday’s Game 5 against the Toronto Maple Leafs following a controversial hit by Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri.
Ovechkin was hit low by Kadri, and required help leaving the ice.
Kadri was given 2 minutes for tripping, and the Capitals scored on the ensuing power play to take a 1-0 lead. They would win 2-1 in overtime to take a 3-2 series lead.
For Ovechkin it proved to be just an injury scare, as he returned to the ice to start the second period.
“It doesn’t hurt,” said Ovechkin to The Associated Press after the game. “Nothing. I just take time to watch the power play.”
Ovechkin, who said he was “all good” and wasn’t worried, quipped that he was watching on TV in the locker room when T.J. Oshie scored on the power play that came from Kadri’s tripping penalty for upending the Russian star. There was considerable debate over whether the hit deserved that two-minute minor, more or less.
“Trotzy probably thought there should have been a major, and I thought it should have been no penalty,” Toronto coach Mike Babcock said.
For his part, Kadri said he didn’t intend to injure Ovechkin and was glad he returned.
“I just kind of tried to get a piece of him,” Kadri said. “He tried to get out of the way. It’s not like I stuck my knee out or got my arms high or anything like that. It happened pretty quick. From what I saw, I thought it was OK.”
Ovechkin crushed Maple Leafs defenseman Jake Gardiner on his first shift back, and Kadri said the Capitals’ captain “was running around a little bit when he came back, so he must have been fine.” Ovechkin took some jabs at Kadri the rest of the night but said he didn’t see the replay to judge whether the hit was dirty.
Clean or night, the sight of Ovechkin down and in pain made his teammates nervous. Oshie said he didn’t know Ovechkin was OK until players went into the locker room at intermission.
“He’s the face of this franchise,” Trotz said. “You saw him come back and how tough he is.”
Given that Ovechkin plays through just about everything, Williams wasn’t surprised about the quick return.
“Ovi’s a horse,” Williams said. “It takes a lot to hurt that guy, especially this time of year. He came back hard, fans gave him a great ovation and he played another hard game for us again.”